Cover crops - which ones?

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Paletti
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Cover crops - which ones?

Post by Paletti »

These cold winter days are the perfect time to prepare for next spring. My wife and I don't have a property yet but I can help reading everything I can find on soil, crops, permaculture, organics etc that I can get my hands on. And it seems that one of the most important goals is improving soil quality using cover crops. Last night I came across this video https://youtu.be/y_GEpq59urY and it's very interesting for anyone who's interested in cover crops (this farmer uses daikon, soybeans, clover and many many others as cover crops). Now, as I don't have any experience with cover crops, I was just curious if any of you has used them and if so which ones and how they grew.

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Zasso Nouka
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Re: Cover crops - which ones?

Post by Zasso Nouka »

For winter I've used Italian rye grass and hairy vetch, you can buy large 1kg packs of the seeds easily enough and they work quite well. The vetch fixes nitrogen and the rye grass adds biomass, I only wish I had a flail mower attachment for my tractor to finely chop them when turning them into the soil as they tend to wrap around the rotary attachment.

Sorghum makes a good cover crop for the summer months, it grows really fast outpacing weeds and not many insects eat it and the roots are too tough for most soil dwelling pests so they starve. It adds a huge amount of biomass when turned into the soil.

For general soil improvement you can't go wrong adding rice husks and rice husk charcoal and bamboo charcoal will last for several years once turned into the soil. If you are looking at land that has been conventionally farmed for a long time and maybe depleted of minerals then adding oyster shells is a very good way of replacing those minerals and micro nutrients, around 500 - 600円 for a 20kg sack I think.

If you are adding chicken manure from egg laying chickens rather than broilers then it's likely they will have been fed oyster shells so their manure will have a higher mineral content than manure from broilers.

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Paletti
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Re: Cover crops - which ones?

Post by Paletti »

Very useful - thank you Zasso. Has anyone ever tried buckwheat?

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Re: Cover crops - which ones?

Post by Zasso Nouka »

Sorry, not tried it myself as we don't have a harvester.

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Eric in Japan
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Re: Cover crops - which ones?

Post by Eric in Japan »

Paletti wrote:Has anyone ever tried buckwheat?
Yes, I tried it. As a cover crop I just mowed it down with my brush cutter while flowering. It makes a nice mulch, but really decomposes fast.
I have never seen the enormous benefits everyone talks about with cover crops. But I am a very lazy gardener, so weed (and boar) pressure means I have a terrible garden every season. Good intentions and poor execution.

I also grew some out to harvest the seeds. 90 days from planting to harvest. I cut them low to the ground with my kama, tied them with a twist of rice straw, and hung them on a bamboo pole to dry. To thresh them I just kind of beat them with a stick, and used a gloved hand to strip the seeds off. An electric fan made winnowing a "breeze" and I had enough soba to make New Years Noodles for my family. It was a lot of effort for not much food, but I was in it for the experience more than the flavor.

If you read the blog, go from the bottom up.
"... so, the cucumbers said to the cabbage, `Lettuce Go.`"

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Re: Cover crops - which ones?

Post by Paletti »

Hi Eric - thanks for your reply. Man, making soba with the kids must be great fun, regardless of it eventually tastes! One of the reasons I want to grow it is because we love the baked seeds in our homemade granola.

Too bad cover crops have not really worked for you so far. I assume you and everyone else on this forum are aware of Fukuoka Food Forest but here's a link anyway http://permaculturenews.org/2014/07/15/ ... od-forest/

It gives a clear overview of the species he used in his food Forest. White clover was a real winner in his orchard. I guess it also really helps to start out small, see what works for you in your garden specifically, and then slowly expand.

I have also been very interested in compact “support” trees… like yamamomo (Myrica rubra) and acacias as small dwarf nitrogen-fixing support trees (max 2-3 meters tall). My plan is to prune/train the hell out of them into an espalier/multi-cordon so they can fit in a row of fruit trees and don’t create to much shade for crops around them. I bought a yamamomo years ago and it has been performing rather well on my balcony so I definitely want to propagate this one by taking cuttings come spring - hopefully she is a female.

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Re: Cover crops - which ones?

Post by Brandon88 »

Hello friends, It looks like I may be able to acquire some vacant fields this autumn in southern Nara. They have been unused for years. I am trying to do no till farming, so my plan is to cut back the grass and plant a field of daikon in the autumn, mixed with some other choice cover crops, then let the daikon die off in winter, unharvested. The idea is that the daikon will act as my tractor, loosening the soil for spring, while drawing up deep inaccessible nutrients, and rotting back into the soil for the spring crops to feed on. I will plant daikon heavily, mixed with some clover, hairy vetch, and perhaps some winter wheat and soy. Very similar to the first post in this thread. So my question is, What type of daikon should I go with? I have looked at the communities recommend seed sites on another thread, but there are probably a good 50 types of daikon out there! And many of them are F1, I would like an open pollinated variety, so i only need to buy the seeds once. So, even if nobody has tried this method, for the daikon growers out there, what open pollinated or heirloom varieties have grown well for you? Also, what is a good source to buy the seeds in bulk? In the U.S. this method is becoming popular and you can buy bulk daikon seeds under the names of forage radish or tillage radish, but I haven't seen anything like that in Japan yet. As well, I'd like to eat a few, and im not sure about the flavor of tillage radish... So what are your thoughts daikon growers? Much love and appreciation! Im sure I will be experimenting with this for the next few years ahead, and I will be happy to share my trials, errors, and results with you all!

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Re: Cover crops - which ones?

Post by Zakiyama »

Hi Brandon, Congrats on your farming opportunity!

We haven't grown any daikon yet. We need to put up fences first and remove all the "mulch" from our fields, by mulch I mean layers of plastic and tarps and corrugated metal and carpets and electric blankets and such...it's a big job.

The villagers are adamant that daikon planted without a fence would be eaten by the monkeys and boar.

But we have been researching and planning. We found this place that specializes in heirloom seeds. They outsource seed growing because they say they couldn't find enough people in Japan to grow heirlooms and it would've been too expensive...but they stock mostly heirlooms that started in Japan. You may have to call them about a bulk order.

This is there radish selection: http://noguchiseed.com/hanbai/tane/aki/7.html

These are suuuper long :http://noguchiseed.com/hanbai/tane/shosai/0163.html
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Re: Cover crops - which ones?

Post by Zasso Nouka »

I've never tried this method so am extremely interested to see how it works out for you. If you have the time and inclination to document the process it could be a good learning experience for us all.
Brandon88 wrote:
Mon Sep 02, 2019 11:04 am
Also, what is a good source to buy the seeds in bulk? In the U.S. this method is becoming popular and you can buy bulk daikon seeds under the names of forage radish or tillage radish, but I haven't seen anything like that in Japan yet.
This will be your main hurdle I think, you could perhaps approach local daikon farmers and ask them where they buy their bulk seed packs from but that probably won't give you the varieties you are after. Perhaps Noguchi Seed that Zakiyama linked to might have bulk amounts. Or you could import a bulk amount from the US and either keep or sell of any excess stock. You will need to check with plant protection services, there is some information on importing plants rather than seed Here and there is an inquiry link at the bottom of the page. You will probably need a phytosanitary certificate but sometimes seeds don't need them and sometimes they do, it's a bit of a grey area. If you import seeds that require a certificate and you haven't obtained one you can get placed on a blacklist where anything addressed to you in the future from abroad will be held at customs and inspected. Generally the Plant Protection Service are very helpful and will try and work something out if you contact them beforehand, I've worked with them a couple of times and they've always tried their best to work something out.

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Re: Cover crops - which ones?

Post by Brandon88 »

Thanks Guys! I think I will order some stuff from Noguchi seed. It looks like they have some pretty interesting varieties. Also quite affordable, so I can just buy a bunch of packets if I need to. Thanks for the recommendation zakiyama! Zasso, I really appreciate you mentioning the black listing... Honestly my first inclination was to order them from the U.S. and just not claim anything. But yeah, thats probably not the best idea. I will keep the plant protection service in mind in case I can't source enough seeds. Im sure they are easy to work with and helpful, but it still sounds a bit mendokusai. Im trying to connect again with a friend in Kyushu practising shizen noho who first turned me on to this technique, My wife and I did a short farm stay with him last year. maybe he can send me some daikon seeds. From there, I will try to connect with other organic farmers to see what I can get my hands on. Kawaguchi Yoshikazu's farm is also in Nara. Im hoping I can take a few courses at his farm and get my hands on some of his heirlooms as well. It might be fun to plant a handful of different varieties and end up with an interesting hybrid...
I am really excited to document the experiment though. I will be glad to share my experience. If I cant get it together this year then I will be at it next year for sure. We also still need to put up fencing, dig drainage ditches ex. Im hoping to get a grant for it, but everything moves soooo slowly in the inaka... Im probably being a bit to optimistic about planting this fall. Once it gets going though, I should have daikon seeds coming out of my ears! I hope I can share them with you! Thanks again guys. Peace!