Cover Crops

With year round gardening required at the garden, you may be wondering what to plant. If the thought of deciding what winter crops to plant is daunting this year, consider doing a cover crop.

Cover crops are close-growing plants sown in rotation with food crops, or inter-seeded between food crops to cover bare ground

Cover crops have become more and more popular in the past several years, seeing use from large-scale farmers down to small community gardeners like us. Cover crops originated in pre-industrial times. Cover crops have been an organic and sustainable, tried-and-true, method of using naturally occurring cycles to benefit soils for hundreds of years.

Essentially, when a garden plot is not planted with specific plants, you “cover” that soil with a special crop of plants, the purpose of which is to feed the soil, rather than to feed the gardeners. It will be several weeks before you want to use that plot again for annual planting, the crop is cut down and the plant matter incorporated back into the soil. Fall is a great time to start implementing a cover crop at your garden.

There are many different types of cover crops for urban gardeners like us. Most are either grasses (such as rye, barley, and oats) or legumes (clover, peas, beans, and vetch). Legumes are unique in their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil so that this important nutrient can be used by subsequent crops. Other cover crops include buckwheat and radishes.

Cover crops can help loosen and revitalize your soil, making it more productive for subsequent crops, and they can reduce
the need for pesticides and fertilizer. In addition, cover crops can be very attractive. And many are edible.

This is a great in depth article about cover crops in California.

California Cover Crops

Happy Gardening!

Mary Church

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