Green mulch for shaded area of garden?

Buckwheat    near Johnstown, PA

Can anybody recommend a green/living mulch which will do well in a shaded area of my garden? I do not have time to do much with it this year but I intend to grow edibles on it at some point and would like to keep the weeds in check and turn it in the Fall. I was thinking about planting buckwheat. Do you think it could do well in partial shade? Perhaps white clover?

Posted by: Larry Pelenski (4 points) Larry Pelenski
Posted: April 19, 2013


It would probably be best to plant something that is an annual (so it is easy to plow under by hand) and that is a nitrogen fixer. Legumes form symbiotic relationships with nitrogen fixing bacteria and thus do double duty as a cover crop. White clover is a legume, and would help to fix nitrogen. However, whenever I have let white clover occupy patches of my garden it has gone CRAZY and put down extensive roots/rhizomes. Very difficult to remove completely. You might instead try fava beans, which are annuals and are much easier to plow under for good when you are done with them. Here is a link to an extension fact sheet with some more information about using them as a cover crop: http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xml...

The sheet does mention that they do not enjoy heat, but as you are planting in a shady spot, that may be ideal. Another option could be annual alfalfa: http://www.johnnyseeds.com/p-7208-sum.... I have worked with this in the lab, but not the field. However, it should also provide you with nitrogen fixation (particularly if you buy an accompanying inoculant), may take the heat better if you are in a hot area in the summer, and will also provide good floral resources for bees.

Posted by: Kerry Mauck (58 points) Kerry Mauck
Posted: April 20, 2013

Maybe a native wildflower? So much depends on your geographical location (climate, exposure, soils, etc.) and the quality of the shade (dappled, high, morning/afternoon, etc.). In my area I'd plant yarrow, which forms a nice mat eventually, along with other low-growing natives. Or I'd look into an insectary mix, which some seed catalogs offer. If you wanted a conventional cover crop, I'd go with a legume and a grass, rather than a monoculture.

Posted by: Tanya in the Garden (128 points) Tanya in the Garden
Posted: April 20, 2013

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