What to do about naked soil -- cover crop or wild flower seeds?

(I’m in zone 9B / on the edge of 10A)

What’s the best seed to throw out NOW (end February/ early March) to cover and improve the soil and more specifically to break up the tough, compacted soil and improve water infiltration?

Is it too late to plant Diakon radish?

I was also thinking about tossing out buckwheat.
I am worried about grasses because I heard they can be invasive.
Would I be better off tossing out wildflower seeds now and waiting to plant diakon seeds in the fall? This is in an area I hope to turn into a mini orchard.

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Go to Greencoverseed.com
They have a nice website that tells you the pros and cons of all the cover crop types. In terms of what you want to accomplish, planting method, etc… You can always find a different source of seed once you narrow down what you are looking for, but I have ordered from them several times, friendly, fast shipping, and helpful.

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Plant it with white clover for a soil enriching cover, or crimson clover for a taller cover. Both will attract bees for your orchard. Both self seed each year to crowd out weeds, but both are not tolerant of weed chemical killers. So any weeds would need to be pulled by hand and garden tools.

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Dandelion, Burdock, sterile Comfrey and clover.

Cover is a legume and with the right bactera(included by popular suppliers add nitrogen to the soil)

The other three are dynamic accumulators with huge root systems that break up soil as they send there roots down for nutrients.

Burdock and Dandelion are also edible and make a fine drink.

Dandelion also can serve as an indicator of calcium as it does not thrive where calcium supply is adequate. After several years of thick rich dandelion cover surface calcium should improve greatly.

sterile Comfrey, Comfery is rather difficult to remove so you want to be a sterile cultivar. once planted its going to make a great deal of trace element full bio mater that breaks down quickly for other plants to use.

Comfery benefits from a nitrogen source.

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Do you think the cover crop will attract voles? I suppose the weeds do too. I guess I will just have to learn to live with them.

I let wildflowers run wild elsewhere but don’t let them grow in tree wells. I always advocate for natives wherever possible as pollinators tend to be abundant when your space is more amicable than your neighbors or surroundings. Some “weeds” like aforementioned dandelion seed themselves but I allow anything under a certain size and pluck out/mulch the offensive ones. Legumes and clovers have been good to me . Now a lot of my ground has a perpetual carpet of tiny seedlings underneath the cover and it’s always nice down there. In some places you can see mycelium on the surface of decomposed mulch.

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voles eat anything above ground it doesn’t matter and sometimes root
Moles eat the roots below ground.

for Voles post Owl houses
for Moles spray full scented castor oil.

In your Zone your going to want to post some serious shade cloth to grow radishes.

Also when do you plan to plant your orchard? it will take seasons for cover crops and tap root plants to have an effect.

Dandelions for example are biennial. The first year it grows leaves and roots. The second year it flowers. The third year the roots decline and die making room for the next generation. The decaying roots are what break up the soil.

Thank you for enlightening me about how long it takes for cover crops to have an effect…and for how dandelions grow. I had no idea. As far as the voles and moles, I think I will plant all of my fruit trees in extra large, homemade hardware cloth cages.

A cover crop of the legume family might also be worth considering. Like clover. I am gonna sow a lot of micro clover (also known as turf clover) this year. I have no experiance with it yet. But it seems like a great thing.

Doesen’t get tallar than 6 inches and doesen’t need to be mowed. Although it can get mowed (wil than stay around 4 inches high)
Fixes nitrogen. Is a perennial. It spreads itself, (stolon) so “heals” damages or empty spots. (although also ecroaches on the edges where you might not want it)
It should keep weeds out reasonable well after it has settled. You can mix it with gras seeds and sow “virgin soil”. If you already have gras, oversowing seems to not work as well or at all.

Although i will need to water more. However this seems like a worthwhile trade-off to me.
And it is not resistant to herbicides (i don’t use those anyway, so don’t care. But if you got acres to weed i can imagine it being an important factor. Also means it’s worth it to do a torough weeding befor sowing.
It is reletivly new/unknown. So is the experiance with it. So consider it bit on the expirimental side instead of a “proven known” thing.
From what i could find it only flowers from the 2e year on. Although the micro clover seems to flower less compared to the taller/larger “normal” “dutch” white clover.
It is also a little slower to settle. Needs more care/patiance the first year.

another intresting cover crop im gonna sow this year is
Trifolium subterraneum
should be really drought resistant

see for example these video’s

micro clover as lawn replacement in a place where grass doesen’t survive/thrive.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Tx_n9rV_PU

Comparing different types of white clover (not the micro)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WV1EjZ5PNj4

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