Courtesy of Courtney T., Cornercopia Student Organic Farm, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
One of the systems I’ve set up on our farm is to have semi- permanent beds with white Dutch clover pathways between the beds. The beds are 2.5′ wide and the pathways are 2.5′ wide. The way we set them up is to till the whole area once. Then using bamboo poles we lay out the corners of the beds and pathways (we use 20′ beds so they are 50 sq. ft., but any size would work), then we plant the beds with crops.
About 2 weeks later we come through and stirrup hoe the pathways and spread clover seed. This knocks out the first and second rounds of weed seeds in the pathways. As the clover establishes you can walk on it, mow it any time the weeds get taller than it. And man does it look pretty after its been mowed. I realize that 2.5′ pathways are way wider than the standard SPIN bed, but we are a farm with lots of volunteers and tours, and it makes it easy to know where to walk.
In between crops throughout the season we can easily broad fork the beds – no tilling needed. In the second season at the beginning of the season you can often also just broad fork beds. During the second season the clover did get very tall in the spring, but it was easy to mow. We also had to use a hoe to pull the clover out of the beds and back into the pathways and then mowed it and it fell back into place. Word of warning with last fall’s drought and early cold winter a lot of my clover pathways died out in MN. Easy solution – restart the system. All those roots tilled into the soil – free fertilizer-flip the beds and pathways. My interns and volunteers love out broad fork – they fight over who gets to use it.