Brent
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Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2015 7:21 pm
Location: Zone 9a

Cover crop or no?

Howdy all,

I am always planning ahead... sometimes too far ahead. Anyway, right now I am already thinking about the dreaded heat that will come in a few months here in Phoenix. I have a 1-2 month window where most of my small raised beds will not have anything growing in them.

My question is this: will it be worth the trouble and the water to try and grow a quick cover crop before my fall planting? My garden gets lots of yummy compost on a regular basis, so I am not sure if a cover crop is necessary?

Thanks,

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jal_ut
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Location: Northern Utah Zone 5

Re: Cover crop or no?

I have never gardened in Phoenix zone 9A, but my thought is that I would not go for a cover crop.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/- Plant a Garden

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Gary350
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Re: Cover crop or no?

Why don't you plant your garden NOW? I lived in Phoenix 3 years this is the perfect time to plant, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, other cabbage, chard, Spanish, lettuce, more. Plant squash, beans, peppers, tomatoes, okra, 1st day of March. Garden will do good until end of May.

You can grow herbs year round.

Next year plant your first garden in Nov if it lives through the 2 weeks of cold weather you will not need to plant a second garden after the freeze.

Seeds and plants are so unreasonable in AZ $5 per plant. There is a farm supply store on 202 near Glendale they have ok prices, $3.50 per plant tray of 6 plants, same thing is $1.50 in TN. Good seed prices on ebay. I planted seeds in rows with 1/4" hose irrigation in AZ soil they did good with compost added to the soil.

It was a challenge to learn how to grow a good AZ garden. When temperature gets above 105 let it die.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/111494993126?_t ... EBIDX%3AIT

http://www.ebay.com/itm/121559819408?_t ... EBIDX%3AIT

imafan26
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Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Cover crop or no?

Usually people in Arizona complain of the alkaline soil conditions, but it sounds like your garden has been made quite rich. I think you should plant while you can. In 105 heat even the weeds don't like to grow, so I would just mulch during the hottest months and take a break. I would try to rotate high users with low users like corn and beans and plant companions like tomatoes with basil, and plant seasonally instead and keep adding the compost and just plant things that will keep things in balance.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

Brent
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Location: Zone 9a

Re: Cover crop or no?

Thank you all for the replies, although I think I was slightly misunderstood.

What I was trying to say is: Would it be useful to plant a cover crop in the short window of time (around June-July) when I do not have any vegetables growing in my raised beds. I have something growing in most of my beds all through the fall, winter and spring.

Not know a whole lot about cover crops, I am wondering if it will be worth planting one. As stated, my garden gets lots of compost and produces very well.

Thank you,

Asica
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Re: Cover crop or no?

You do not plant in Summer because it is too hot, and you would have to put a lot of water. Cover crop would also require water, so I do not think your efforts would be worth it.

imafan26
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Re: Cover crop or no?

Cover crops are usually not put in in the summer but in the fall. You could do a cover crop of buckwheat to add biomass. It usually takes about 6 weeks. You could plant a legume instead if it is inoculated to not only add biomass but also to fix some nitrogen. Cowpeas also take about 6 weeks. In any case a cover crop would be tilled in at the flowering stage before it sets seeds for maximum benefit. It does take water and I don't know if it would help with weeds much. Buckwheat does help keep weeds down because it grows fast and tall. It can be used as a summer cover crop. As a green manure it is tilled in and decomposes quickly so it leaves the bed ready for planting. You just have to make sure it does not go to seed otherwise it will keep popping up. Usually, I use the heat to my advantage by letting the beds rest then and solarize instead. June- August is the best time to do solarization and it helps to reduce some nematodes, soil borne diseases and kill some weeds, unfortunately not nut sedge. Instead of a cover crop consider solarizing instead.
http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74145.html
http://covercrops.cals.cornell.edu/mid-summer.php
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Cover crop or no?

Fall would be Brent's prime time to grow the crops he wants. Phoenix is a very different climate than most of us (even imafan in Hawaii) are used to. October is the first month that the average high for the month is below 100 deg F (Sept average = 100, Oct average = 89). Brent's best growing season is Nov - Apr. By May the average high for the month is back to 95. [ Phoenix has more days when the temperature exceeds 100 °F (38 °C) than any other city in the United States, including most of the days from late May through early October.]

Personally, I take Asica's point. Brent is in the desert and water is a big issue. I think buckwheat, chicory, and cowpeas are among the most heat and drought tolerant plants that are commonly used as cover crops, so if he wanted, he could see how they do. But since the soil is already very enriched, the idea of letting it rest under mulch makes sense to me, in those conditions.
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Taiji
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Re: Cover crop or no?

A late reply from me on this one, but I was reminded of this thread yesterday when I lifted up some hay that I had placed on one of my beds a few weeks ago. The soil underneath was moist and wonderful. ( a la Ruth Stout) So, letting your beds rest and mulching sounds like a great idea to me too.
Sometimes, too, what I do, is buy some high protein alfalfa hay ( or grass hay) and spread it on and dig it in during the off season if I haven't had the time or inclination to plant a cover crop. Hay like that is readily available around here. It is a little challenging to dig hay in with a spading fork, but I persevere.

ButterflyLady29
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Re: Cover crop or no?

Cover crop? No, not in that situation. Mulch however would be a great addition. It will keep the moisture in and weeds down and will protect your soil from the direct sun. 2 to 3 inches of mulch would be fine, if you spread newspapers or cardboard before laying the mulch it would be even better.

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