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I'm trying to start cultivating a shady plot of dirt where nothing currently grows. The soil is quite compacted, and I think the first thing we need is a green mulch or cover crop that will do well in a shady area. I did dig in some half finished compost this spring, mostly because we hadn't yet acquired our second bin and the first was overflowing. So there are some spots where there's a lot of organic material in the soil.

Wondering then: what's a good green mulch for shade?

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Where are you, what's the climate? If you're planting soon, what's the weather been like lately and what do you expect it to be in the near future (e.g. are you entering a rainy or dry season)? What are your goals for this green mulch (green manure?) -- till it under to add organic matter, cut it for compost (in either of these cases you want to optimize for biomass production), weed suppression, scavenging nutrients, permanent "mulch", etc? For crop ideas, see: hort.cornell.edu/bjorkman/lab/covercrops/index.php -- add more detail and I can maybe make suggestions. –  bstpierre Jul 11 '12 at 15:31
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2 Answers 2

White clover is a good green manure for shade and will grow in low nitrogen, compacted soil. Generally, compacted soil is lacking in calcium and will need lime or gypsum.

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I used clover as a cover crop to enrich and loosen up stony compacted ground. It worked great but white clover is perennial and a little hard to get rid of once it is established. –  kevinsky Aug 28 '13 at 10:29
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My favorite ground cover to use is Vinca, but it is invasive so I would need to be contained, either by hand trimming or spraying the edges as it encroaches unwanted areas. If you mow over it, each tiny cutting has the ability to root, in your lawn. Ivy would work, without the invasive trait; you could cut it back without collecting the cuttings. Coriscan mint?

http://thebloomingauction.com/uploaded/radD3ACBCORSICAN%20MINT.jpg

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