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I planted a cover cropping mix (clover mix) and recently turned it into the soil so that it can decompose in 3-6 weeks. First I cut the green parts of the cover crop into the soil and then used a hoe to turn them in. I usually mulch my bed with straw. However if I want the cover crops to decompose into the soil quickly, should I not mulch? Instinctively, I want to mulch to better protect the soil. However, I feel like the direct sunlight would lead the to cover crops decomposing more quickly because of photodegradation? Am I totally wrong about that?

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    Hi Stephie! It isn't the sun it is the heat that precipitates decomposition. Air, heat and nitrogen. Forget about doing double duty: Going through the entire decomposition process with the green cover crop and then dumping mulch on top. For one thing, the added material on top of the bed decreases the O2, moisture. Anything that is NOT decomposed has to be decomposed and takes first priority during an ecosystem's energy budget. Organic material that is NOT decomposed gets what little nitrogen available from not decomposed material. Photodegradation is BVD's hung in the sun for a decade. – stormy Jan 10 at 21:30
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"However, I feel like the direct sunlight would lead the to cover crops decomposing more quickly because of photodegradation? Am I totally wrong about that?"- fnwovnwownf

Well no, you aren't totally wrong about that. However, the microbial and macro decomposers are going to be far more effective. Decomposers like the mulch; it keeps the sun and the eyes of birds off their backs. If the end game is fast decomposition then burying said materials is the quickest root possible.

That being said, manual break-down of the materials will speed up the process significantly.

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  • Thanks so much! I added mulch yesterday and pulverized the greens as much as I could with a hoe (a bit limited on supplies!). – fnwovnwownf Jan 11 at 21:55

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