Cover Crops

Written by Mark Damon

All of us at Maui Bees are excited about regenerative agriculture. For anyone not familiar with this concept it simply means to build soil while using the land for crop production.  For the past few years we have been experimenting with different methods to regenerate our soil. Most importantly we no longer till the soil (we used to roto till the garden beds occasionally when the soil started to get hard and compacted).


Now when a garden bed has finished a cycle of crop production, instead of tilling we grow cover crops to enrich the soil with carbon and maintain the food supply to the bacteria, fungi and earthworms. For cover crops our current model uses fast growing rye, buckwheat, sun hemp, peas, etc  which produce thick growth. 

Right after raking the seeds into the beds we have to cover them with a light penetrating protective cloth for a few days while the seeds sprout. This is to keep the birds from eating the seeds. In a few weeks, after the cover crop grows a foot or two high we cut it close to the ground and lay it down as mulch.

We then immediately cover it with a weed mat material for a few days to kill the cover crops so they don’t keep growing.  When we remove the weed mat cover we are left with a thick soil covering of mulch that keeps the soil moist and shaded and we’re ready to plant the next round of food crops.  We plant seeds or plant starts straight into the beds where we make a small opening in the mulch.

As the food crop grows the mulch breaks down and is absorbed into the soil as food for the soil microorganisms. Eventually this is cycled back to the food crops as soil fertility. This system mimics nature and allows us to grow our food crops in a timely and productive way.

I encourage you to watch one of these short videos from “Kiss the Ground” to show you how regenerative farming can help reduce our carbon foot print, build topsoil and reverse climate change.

Posted by Leah Damon

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