[Market-farming] Managing ground between plastic mulch rows (was Rotor Tiller)

Jason Jones JJones at thehomestead.org
Thu Nov 15 11:08:46 EST 2007

We grow on plastic covered beds with 6 feet between each bed.  We do this so that the people our organization serves can participate in planting, harvesting, weeding, ect.  I have tried several combinations of covers for in between the beds and still have not come up with the best.  What I have found is that for long season crops like okra, onions, and potatoes white clover works the best as it readily establishes and loves to be mowed.  The mowing, about once every two weeks, keeps the weeds in check until they are not an issue anymore or the clover beats them out.  However, white clover in long season cucurbits like pumpkins does not work well unless you have the time and inclination to train your vines along the edges of the beds.  For those, I tried an oats / vetch mix thinking that the vetch was planted late enough that it wouldn't get crazy and the oats would suppress the weeds and re-seed for the winter.  The vetch didn't do much at all, the oats were not enough to suppress the weeds, but they did reseed into a nice winter killed cover.  
I second the use of cereal rye planted late enough in the spring to avoid vernalization.  This can be tough as Rye vernalization can occur when the rye is exposed to only 10 days of 45° F night temperatures.  It needs a very good stand to be effective as a smother crop, but can be mowed to control weeds if necessary.  I tried it in between beds of sweet corn this past season and it did a good job as a cover, mediocre job as a smother.  My problem with it was I tried to space the corn rows too close, about 2 feet between beds, thinking the rye would be a good smother.  It wasn't and I had a fairly bad weed problem being inadequately controlled with a weed-eater.      

Hope this helps.

Jason Jones
Farm Manager
JJones at TheHomestead.org
(515) 957-3361

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-----Original Message-----
From: market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Errol Castens
Sent: Thursday, November 15, 2007 7:14 AM
To: Market Farming
Subject: Re: [Market-farming] Managing ground between plastic mulch rows (was Rotor Tiller)

Marlin, cowpeas (the default meaning of "peas" in the Deep South) will do
a good job of suppressing a lot of your weeds, but considering they can
get waist-high themselves, it's going to take extra effort to walk through
them while tending/gathering your primary crop. It's a good but not
faultless plan.

Errol Castens
Oxford, Mississippi
Zone 7

On Wed, November 14, 2007 8:43 pm, Glen Eco Farm said:
> Next year I'm thinking of planting something that will grow more
> aggressively in hot weather, make a thicker ground cover, feed nitrogen to
> the soil, and yield some crop to those who want them--cowpeas.  What do
> some of you think?  Will it work?  Has anyone tried it?

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