There is no more simple and powerful way to re-energize your garden’s soil than by planting a fall cover crop.
And you might just be amazed at just how easy it is to do!
Cover crops provide a long list of benefits to tired garden soil. See: The Amazing Benefits of Planting a Fall Cover Crop.
First and foremost, cover crops protect precious garden soil from erosion.
Wind, rain and snow all take a toll on the soil through the winter months. But a thriving cover crop keeps all of that at bay.
And while doing so, they also help to loosen the soil below as their roots break down deep into the soil.
But perhaps most importantly of all, cover crops recharge tired garden soil.
They do so by giving their nutrients back to the soil. And in the process, fix nitrogen levels and build valuable soil structure.
All leading to healthier plants, and a more productive garden.
When To Plant A Fall Cover Crop
A cover crop can be planted as soon as the soil has been cleared of summer’s vegetable crops.
In fact, the sooner you protect the bare soil by planting, the better.
What To Plant – Choosing A Fall Cover Crop
There are a lot of choices when it comes to choosing a cover crop. At the top of the list is annual rye (often referred to as annual or winter rye). Seed Link : Annual Rye
Annual rye covers the garden soil in a thick coat of bright green grass-like blades, with roots that drive deep to break up hard soils.
It then goes dormant in the winter, coming back to life in early spring. By late spring, it finishes it’s growing cycle and dies off.
If cereal rye is not an option, hairy vetch, buckwheat, field peas and red clover are also excellent choices for a fall cover crop.
How To Plant
Planting a cover crop is one of the easiest garden chores of all. There is no need to till or re-till the garden to plant a cover crop.
Simply rake the soil gently and apply the seed, either by hand, or with a broadcast spreader.
Once the seed is down, gently rake seed into the soil. The seed does not have to be completely covered, but raking to “set” the seed in will help protect it from hungry birds.
Cover crops germinate quickly in the warm soil of late summer and early fall. Usually within a few weeks, the garden will begin to be completely covered in a protective blanket.
After planting, cover crops require little maintenance through the fall and winter months.
The only real rule for maintaining a cover crop is to never allow it to go to seed in the garden.
Crops that go to seed can create weeding issues as the seeds germinate during the growing season.
If the crop grows too large and begins to develop seed heads, simply mow it off.
What To Do With The Cover Crop Before Spring
In the spring, cover crop can either be turned over (with a shovel or by tilling), or simply left to die off and then planted through.
This is known as the no-till method, and requires the least amount of work when it comes to utilizing cover crops.
Whether tilling in or using the no-till method, the entire crops is given back to the soil. And in the process, enriches and energizes it for the coming year’s garden to reap the benefits.
Here is to protecting and recharging your garden this fall with an incredible cover crop!
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