Cutting Sunn Hemp for the Fall Garden

Our summer garden has been surprisingly difficult. We’re hoping to get a fresh start with the fall garden.


Amanda has already begun sneaking in plants that are really more “fall” than summer. She’s planted new cherokee purple tomatoes, eggplant, and nearly every unclaimed spot on the west side is getting planted in purple hull peas. But we’ve agreed that Row 6 will be dedicated to the fall garden, so we needed to make way for it.

We planted sunn hemp on rows 1-6 on June 14, and it’s grown nicely. On a couple of rows, it’s to the height of my eye now, almost 6 feet tall. And that’s after only 43 days in the ground. Our plan is to let it grow for at least 60. As we’ve already discussed, of course, Veg Hill is not all created equal, so there are plenty of areas on the east side where the sunn hemp is nowhere near that tall and apparently will never be.

But I digress. Amanda wants to plant the bulk her fall garden the first week of August (actually she would love to have planted it this week, but she’s away from the farm). So on Sunday morning before church we cut down the sunn hemp.

Ideally, in the no-till organic system we use, a cover crop would be crimped into the soil with some kind of sharp pressing blade. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for us, because we have thin (read that easily damaged) drip tape right up on the surface of the soil. We thought about using a string trimmer, but the sunn hemp is pretty tough, so it would have taken a long time beating at it with the string trimmer to bring it down. Our solution was to cut the sunn hemp with a hedge trimmer. The operation went fairly smoothly.

Now we wait for several days to see if the sunn hemp tries to grow back. If it does, we’ll have to treat it as a weed and try burying it in mulch and/or using the weeding hoe, an operation we REALLY hope to avoid.

The video runs a little less than five minutes, with Amanda narrating.

3 thoughts on “Cutting Sunn Hemp for the Fall Garden”

  1. Did you know that Sunn hemp is a non native species? Why did you use it instead of say clover which is native? Does it work better? Also, is there any possibility that sunn hemp will become invasive like kudzu?

  2. Interesting timing for your comment. I’ve been watching the sunn hemp grow and grow, and now it’s about 10 feet tall. So far so good, because the extension folks have assured me that it won’t propagate this far north. HOWEVER, just yesterday afternoon I noticed some flowers at the top of the plants. A LITTLE SCARY.

    We’re in meetings all day today, and fortunately one of them is with the extension agent for Elmore County. I’m going to show her pictures of our sunn hemp and see what she says, but I’m leaning heavily in favor of bringing it down.

  3. Yeah, blooming sun hemp is very scary. I thought your reference to bringing in another kudzu to the south hilarious. Though I don’t think your fear is unfounded!

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