By Ben Boo
Here on the Cornercopia Student Organic Farm, we are as much about simple farm goals like high yield, minimal pest damage and efficient use of space as we are about experimentation and finding out what works best for our plot through good old fashioned trial and error. Learning is of the upmost importance and one of the fruits of this style has been the selection of our preferred weed control/ground cover crop, clover!
As applied in our farm, clover is planted in any space not occupied by a high tunnel or a bed and the advantages have proven numerous. The filled space has introduced competition for weeds that would otherwise fill in the empty spaces between beds and invade the crops. We simply mow the clover before it flowers (which in turn beheads any weeds before they flower) and we have seen a dramatic decrease in weed colonization. The roots help maintain soil structure and prevent erosion and runoff. The presence of a uniform ground cover simplifies the question of “where can I walk out here?!” And perhaps most importantly, clover acts as a nitrogen fixer, which means soil that would otherwise be fallow is instead being improved with nutrients that are typically removed when growing and harvesting crops. This is effective when implemented with a rotation of planting the following year where clover existed prior.
The lessons learned have proven numerous, and the effectiveness of clover is but one of many! Spending time out here is a great experience for everyone involved, if you have the time to volunteer then check it out!!