Using cover crop seeds to build up a solid cover crop has been used for hundreds of years in the America's. Native American's used what is known as the “3 sisters” technique, where corn, beans and squash were grown together for the benefits of biodiversity in their fields.
George Washington was one the earliest settlers with documented use of using cover crops to replenish nutrients in his soil. He primarily grew clover, grasses, and buckwheat as cover crops. In that time, farmers found it easier to just keep moving west and start new fields instead of managing their own field for erosion and nutrient control. Washington found it more prudent to manage the fields he already had then to keep building out new fields.
Cover crops, also known as, “green manure” have continued to be used to this day in all different types of agriculture. They are not just used by organic farmers and growers, but traditional chemical type ag fields use them as well. It is an easy way to reintroduce organic matter back into your soil, and also bring much needed nutrients to where the plants roots will be next season.
In field applications cover crops can be used different times of the year depending on your zone rating. With large scale ag fields the cover crop may act as part of a rotation with other plants. The green manure will be tilled under and allowed to break down by the soil microbiology before the next crop is planted. In a no-till style field the cover crop may be sown with other crops and grown side by side for the companion factor as well as nitrogen fixing.
Indoors in personal and commercial cannabis production cover crops can be used in conjunction with living soils, and also ran as a no-till living soil. Using organic non-gmo cover crops indoors in containers and soil beds will be different than running the same cover crops outdoors. Indoors you want to extend the life of your soil, bring in nutrients, act as a companion pant, and most importantly fight compaction.
Using organic living soil indoors in a no-till environment you have to consider many different factors as the soil ages. When first setting up your beds or pots you want to add a cover crop with your marijuana plants to act as companion plant, and also bring some nutrients into the soil. As the soil ages year after year, you will want to fight compaction. Compaction can and will happen as your no-till living soil ages. Using a cover crop with deep shooting roots will help to aerate the soil and keep the oxygen levels for your cannabis plants in a acceptable range.
When choosing a cover crop seed you want to figure out what your end goal is. Are your wanting to aerate the soil? Are you wanting to bring nitrogen into the soil? Are you wanting to bring organic matter back into the soil? Depending on the answers to these questions and many more, you will then know what direction to go in with your cover crop seed selection.
Different Types Of cover Crops
Red clover is a low-cost, readily available, and is winter hardy in much of the U.S. Easily overseeded or frostseeded into standing crops, it creates loamy topsoil, adds a moderate amount of nitrogen, helps to suppress weeds and breaks up heavy clay soils. Its most common uses include forage, grazing, seed harvest, and plowdown nitrogen. It’s a great legume to frostseed or interseed with small grains where you can harvest grain as well as provide weed suppression and manage nitrogen. When used inside in no-till containers clover acts as a companion plant that brings nitrogen to the soil while also aerating the soil to provide plenty of oxygen to your main crops.
Hairy vetch fixes large amounts of nitrogen, protects soil from erosion, helps improve soil tilth, and provides weed control during its vigorous growth in the spring and when left as a dead mulch at the soil surface. Hairy vetch can also be grazed or harvested as forage. Research has shown that hairy vetch mulch can increase main crop disease resistance and prolong leaf photosynthesis of the following crop. In a no-till environment indoors harry vetch is a great choice for nitrogen fixing and companion planting as well as bringing organic matter back to the soil when chopped down.
Buckwheat is a short-season cover crop. It establishes, blooms and reaches maturity in just 70 to 90 days and its residue breaks down quickly. Buckwheat suppresses weeds and attracts beneficial insects and pollinators with its abundant blossoms. It is easy to kill, and extracts soil phosphorus from soil better than most grain-type cover crops. Bubkwheat grows prolifically indoors in containers or soil beds. It makes an excellent choice as part of a cover crop blend for cannabis.
Grassses Used as cover crops include the annual cereals (rye, wheat, barley, oats), annual or perennial forage grasses such as ryegrass, and warm-season grasses such as sorghum–sudan grass. Nonlegume cover crops, which are mainly grass species, are very useful for scavenging nutrient, especially Nitrogen, left over from a previous crop. They tend to have extensive root systems, and some establish rapidly and can greatly reduce erosion. In addition, they can produce large amounts of residue and, therefore, can help add organic matter to the soil. They also can help suppress weed germination and growth.
To achieve maximum results from your cover crop a blend of different seeds may be the best fit for your situation. You can either hand select seeds based off of your predetermined criteria, or opt to buy a premixed blend of cover crop seeds. If growing indoors in a no-till environment a cover crop is a must. Over time if a cover crop is not used indoors you will run into compaction issues and your plants will suffer from it.
No matter your particular setup Redbud Soil offers a cover crop seed or blend that can help you achieve maximum results for your garden or field.