Cover Crops, Insectary and Beelife a’plenty on our Farm

15 September 2020
Category: Tips

We’ve joined the cover crop revolution!

In the spirit of looking after our soil and all the microbial life; as well as creating an insectary, bird and bee-friendly habitat, we are planting cover crops!

We’ve had the pinto peanut legume as a ground cover on about 1/4 of our farm for years now. This is really special, as it’s almost impossible to buy.

We’ve given away plenty of precious runners over the years to our coffee growing friends, for some ground cover love! Great for fixing nitrogen in the soil – where it can be taken up and help grow strong leafy plants such as coffee which need lots of nitrogen. But it is hard to propagate and spreads rather slowly in full sunshine. It prefers the cooler shady spots and moist soil, and happily grows under the coffee trees, once established.

 

We have a New Seeder!

Now that we have one, we are ready to bring a variety of new plantings that will go between our coffee rows.

Why Replace Grass Cover?

We’ve been happy with our ‘smother grass’ which is super, as a ground cover to cool the soil and prevent weeds, but doesn’t add many nutrients for our soil microbes and doesn’t flower, so not offering much for bees, bugs and spider friends.

With our seeder, we can increase our biodiversity and soil health across our coffee farm. Soilcare advisors recommend a mix of deep-rooted plants, legumes, cereal crops and flowering plants as useful insectary and pollen feeding our bees.

 

Zentveld’s Plantation Bees

As coffee flowers after decent rain in Spring-Summer; the more we can get some pollinating flowering plants through Autumn, Winter and Springtime, the better fed our bees will be!  Mind you we grow a lot of native shrubs, citrus trees, veggie gardens and have 10 acres of rainforest trees along the creekline which all flower at their own times through the year – ready to offer up nectar for our bees. … And then there are the neighbouring farms such as macadamias which offer up their flowers for pollinating too.

We are setting up beehive stations around our farm, with the flow hive under our fig tree about to be joined by a new one. It’s a great spot for  visiting with our On-Tour friends.

 

Our Cover Crop Process

We will let the cover crops grow for about 3 months, then as flowering ends, we either mow or just roll over it to press down the plants as mulch in place. As the green matter and deep roots break down, they add carbon, retain moisture and all matter of goodness to the soil. More humus! More worms and effective, healthy biome of the soil! That is surely a good thing.

Now we have just got to work out what varieties will work well through the seasons and our particular terroir. It’s still pretty experimental, but we are starting with the deep-rooted Smart Radish and the nitrogen-fixing legume Woolly Vetch with some mustard joining the clovers and nasturtiums.

Other goodies to come, so stay tuned for cover crops update in summer!  

Related Tag: Coffee Tamper For Sale