My garden is now finished, and as a gardener, I’m still looking for reasons to be out in it. The weather is mild, the garlic still needs to be planted, and the strawberry and asparagus beds are yet to be cleaned out.
Instead of letting the garden lay idle all winter, open to weeds and erosion, I have decided to plant a portion in a winter cover crop. Cover crops are a great way to turn brown gardens green.
There are a number of reasons to plant a cover crop.
- They keep the soil covered from the harsh winds, snow and rain, helping to prevent soil erosion.
- They help loosen the soil, in turn making the garden easier to turn over the next spring.
- They are great at fixing nitrogen levels in the soil, making it easier for crops to absorb it into the roots, leaves and stems as they grow.
- They help reduce or eliminate weeds.
Planting a cover crop is not hard. You don’t need to till or turn over the garden soil. Just rake it out and broadcast the seeds. Cover lightly and water. In a couple of weeks you should start seeing your cover crop grow.
What variety of cover crop to plant? Check with your local nursery, or feed store for cover crops acclimated for your planting zone. Some suggestions include:
- Hairy Vetch: Hair Vetch is a legume, and is a good choice for its nitrogen fixing abilility. It grows well in cold climates, poor soils, and a range of ph levels. Plant it in the late summer or early fall and till it under in the spring.
- Red clover: This is personally my favorite since I have bees, so you get a two fold benefit from it. You can actually plant it anytime during the garden season between rows of vegetables, for a great nitrogen source and to keep weeds down. The bees will love you for it.
- Buckwheat, annual rye, and winter rye are all grasses, and while you can turn under and benefit from the nutrients it provides to the soil, you won’t benefit from the nitrogen fixing properties. It also helps keep weeds down. Consider pairing it with a legume. Buckwheat and annual rye should be planted in the summer or fall, will die down in the winter, and resume growing in the spring. Winter rye can be planted later in the fall and will overwinter in many areas.
Consider growing a cover crop throughout the year, incorporating both legumes and grasses, providing valuable nitrogen and nutrients to your soil, protecting your soil from erosion, and keeping the weeds at bay.
This post was part of a round of post relating to the color brown.
Until the spring,