cows and cover crops

There are deep footprints through the plots of mangel-wurzels, oats and field peas, and Country Gentleman corn, where three cows got through the open lane gate while we were milking and did spring dances in the soft, wet earth.  They probably didn’t do much real damage, but beds aren’t as pretty any more.  Where the potatoes are just beginning to come up, weeds are threatening to get ahead of them, so we have to begin laying on the mulch trusting to our memories to tell us just where those seed potatoes are.  Ten beds, fifty by seventy-five, rotate between field corn, potatoes, mangels and squash, with a cycle of turnips and beans to follow the potatoes, and the squash and corn undersown with clover.   The beds of mangels and rows of corn alternate with paths we are slowly converting to Dutch while clover, the small-scale, low-tech version of contour plantings of corn and fallow.  The interplanting of clover should shade the soil, hold moisture, slow erosion (a serious issue on our sloping garden), foster beneficial insects and fix nitrogen.  It also makes work, since the paths must then be mowed or hand-harvested of their legume crop, but is this any worse than having to weed them?

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