Time to Plant a Cover Crop

comments (0) September 23rd, 2010

Pin It

ChrisMcLaughlin Chris McLaughlin, contributor
thumbs up 4 users recommend

Legumes like Hairy vetch give soils a nitrogen boost.
 
Photo by neckonomania under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.Click To Enlarge

Legumes like Hairy vetch give soils a nitrogen boost.

 

Photo by neckonomania under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.


Okay, raise your hand if you're planting Hairy vetch this fall! Why would you plant vetch? For the same reason you'd plant fava beans, peas, alfalfa, and crimson clover - because they're cover crops. Have I lost you yet?

Here's the idea behind growing cover crops in the fall. After a long season of vegetables sucking as much nutrition as possible (especially greedy veggies like corn) from the soil, this is a way of putting the good stuff back into your garden beds for next year's food crops.

Cover crops are used for a number of reasons. They provide erosion control by keeping your fluffy garden soil right where it is, act as a weed suppressor, and add organic matter to the soil. If you plant a legume as a cover crop or green manure, you'll be adding a big nitrogen punch. Legumes such as alfalfa, peas, and fava beans fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into their roots. Once the greens are knocked down and turned under, the nitrogen is released into the soil as an offering for other vegetable plants.

You could also cover all the nutritional bases and plant a cover crop mix. In fact, one of the best parts about planting several varieties in one place is that they bloom at different intervals. Staggared blooms means more beneficial insects are attracted to your garden for a longer period of time.

Because I like to have a fall and winter garden filled with lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and garlic, I'll only plant a cover crop into one of my raised beds this year. Then I'll plant to use that bed for my heaviest feeders next spring.

So how many of you are going to give cover crops or green manures a go this fall?


posted in: cover crops, legumes, green manures