Visually Appealing Green Manures

taylorjonl(6a)October 20, 2013

I recently bought a house and I am trying to fix up the front yard. Around 5 years ago my yard was the most beautiful yard on the block(the neighbors tell me all the time), then the owners moved out of state and rented it out, the tenants destroyed it.

I killed the front lawn and tilled in about 3 inches of compost in the top 6 inches of soil. The soil was unbelievably compacted, I didn't actually see a single worm when tilling. I also had dug a 4 foot by 4 foot hole for a dry well to drain the water from my gutters away from my foundation and again I didn't run into any worms at all, just very compacted soil.

I want to try to break through this compacted soil and turn my soil into a paradise for the worms. So I have done some reading on green manures. If my neighbors wouldn't freak out I would grow alfalfa for two years :) but I am trying to not alienate my neighbors any more than I have to, so I am looking for some green manures that can be appealing or pass as a landscape.

I have done some reading on various green manures, some popular ones are Buckwheat, Clovers, Vetch, Rape, etc. I am concerned that these won't look to appealing and I will get complaints to the city.

I have a bit of optimism about the following as green manures that look appealing:

Black Eyed Susan

What I am looking for are non traditional green manures that are easily killed by winter frosts, have good root growth and looks appealing.

My thoughts are that towards the border of my yard I will plant some taller green manures, maybe Sunflowers mixed with some Crimson Clover possibly with Buckwheat. Then in the center I would plant some Daikon Radish with some Yellow Sweet Clover and maybe some Annual Ryegrass.

I would do this for a year or two, basically until I can see that the soil food web is rebounding.

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Radish will stink once they start to rot. Not many neighbors will appreciate that. How about blue lupine. A visually striking cover crop from cotton growing areas. Are your plans to plow the green manures under or to leave the ground alone once the the roots have established? If you do plan to plow is deep ripping the ground alone prior to planting an option?

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 5:53PM
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Firstly, deep ripping would be a problem at this point, I don't have the funds to do something like that today and I have some obstacles(dry well, sprinkler supply lines) to deal with. The last time I disturb the soil(tillage) will be this year, my street has many neighbors with huge trees, I just bought a heavy duty leaf shredder, so when they place there leaves in bags for the city to collect I am going to snatch them up, grind them up, then till them up in the compost/soil layer I have now.

Point taken on the smell from decomposing radish.

I have thought about blue lupine and will probably integrate that into my plans. I think I will find around 8 or 10 different plants, then plant them in bunches separated by either a ground cover or some partially composted wood chips.

So far my options for plants are narrowed to these for nitrogen fixation:

Blue Lupine
Bush Clover
Crimson Clover
Sweet Yellow Clover

Then for organic matter:

Black Eyed Susan
Daikon Radish

I am open to suggestions. I will not be planting like it is a field, I plan to plant just several plants of each in bunches, the bunches being arranged so the nitrogen fixers fertilize the organic matter producing plants. I have to make it look sorta decorative not to get the city on my back.

I am not wanting to do any plowing after this season. I am trying to build the soil food web and will even be putting in a path of stepping stones to avoid compaction. In spring I will buy some earthworms from a bait shop then seed my front yard with them. Each year I hope to grind up my neighbors leaves to feed the worms, until they wise up and use them as nature has done for years.

Then the following year I plan on planting three trees, hopefully by then I can get some worms and other organisms breaking up the soil as long as I keep supplying the organic matter.

I will be collecting the above ground organic matter and making some compost for the spring in my back yard, along with any spare organic matter from my neighbors(they are throwing it away). My reasoning for this is my city has an ordinance that weeds that are cut down must be removed withing X hours.

Each year I hope to have a steady stream of leaf mold and plant roots to keep the worms happy.

I have attached a photo of the yard after I had tilled about 3" of compost into the top 6" of soil and had built up some raised beds.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 1:59AM
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leila hamaya(8 nor cal)

some of my favorite Yarden plants (also many of these are edibles)

viola, or violets
sheep sorrel
pineapple weed/or any chamomile
low growing mints, or big mints
flax, any kind
red clover
wild onions

ah theres more but thats some suggestions. i have a different aesthetic sense than most, but i think these are all attractive growing wild ish.

dont discount the soil bank, either, the volunteers! it may be bare now...but if you just stirred up the soil a lot and removed grass roots- it should come back with a lot of wild/naturalized/native plants other than grass. you can basically watch it as it comes back...see which ones you like and want to encourage and do a little weeding/mulching on top of the ones you dont want....while you also plant some cool things in the midst of that....

    Bookmark   November 1, 2013 at 10:16PM
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There are some decorative kinds of vetch I saw advertised.

Showy Indian clover is hard to find, but it is a native and thus more "Earth Friendly".

What about Partridge Pea?

    Bookmark   January 22, 2014 at 1:12AM
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