For years I was unable to afford the seed for cover crops. Fortunately for me — crops want to grow and if you follow nature’s example to the best of you ability — no matter what your limitations — you’ll probably have good success in gardening.
So — you might ask — why would I want to grow cover crops now — after all those years of not growing them?
Actually there are two reasons —
- 1. Cover crops are a sustainable way for me to obtain mulch to use for my garden. I’m very dependent on the farmer who supplies my straw and I need to take steps away from that and towards being more self-reliant.
I’m starting small — but I’m starting. (Never frown on your small beginnings — because even the greatest of endeavors can start small.)
The second reason is an even greater benefit.
- 2. By using a variety of cover crops in my garden I’m exercising one of the most important of nature’s principles — diversity. Over a period of time it’ll take my garden to a level of even greater success than what I experience now. (That’s enough to excite any gardener!)
Push for Diversity
There are so many varieties of cover crops from which to choose. Once you become comfortable with one — it would be easy to stay with something that is familiar. Always remember that there’s more benefit in diversity than monoculture (growing only one crop).
The greatest range of benefits results from a greater range of plants. Rather than using just one cover crop — force yourself out of your comfort zone and continue to add another and another to your repertoire of cover crops.
#1. Buckwheat – A Great One for Summer — between crops
If you’re new to all this — you’ll want to try buckwheat. It’s one of the easiest to use and the fastest growing. When your spring crops come out — sow buckwheat rather thickly. Wait for rain — or water. Cover lightly with straw. It’ll be up and growing in no time —- and ready to come out in 4 to 6 weeks —- so you can plant another crop.
#2. Think you Don’t Have Room for a Cover Crop?
Sow clover in the same bed with staked crops like pole beans, cukes, tomatoes and eggplant. This can greatly increase your organic matter production without sacrificing beds earmarked for vegetable crop production. It also increases soil life activity which is just what you want.
I’ve done this with crimson clover but found it a little tall and inconvenient. Dutch white clover is shorter and not as likely to “get in the way”.
You can sow the clover prior to planting your crops to make sure it gets started good. Then cut planting holes in the clover for transplants. Or in the case of pole beans clear a narrow row down the center of the bed for direct seeding.
If you miss the time frame for getting the clover started before you plant your crops — go ahead and sow the cover crop with the main crop or even after the main crop is planted.
Cover Crops — what a great and easy way to cover your soil, increase soil microbe activity, increase your organic matter production, store nutrients for the next crop, and provide cover and food for beneficial and bees!
Organic Gardening is easy, efficient, effective — and it’s a lot healthier.
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