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Cover crops

2799 Views 6 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  stephanie
I usually don't plant cover crops. I did one year - about 7 yrs ago. But otherwise, my garden just pretty much weeds over in the winter time and then I mow it down, amend it with cow manure compost, till it in and start the garden. But since my garden has been so poor this summer, I am re-thinking about cover crops. Do you plant a cover crop? if so, what kind?
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There are several kinds to grow the best are the ones that die off after a good freeze. that way they break down and till in better if you till. I don't till and just keep piling compost and old news papers this year I am going to do wood chips over the garden spaces after I top dress with horse poo. then will cover the beds with black plastic to help the composting go a bit faster with weed control. the cover crop I did was red clover and it tends to take over even though it is very pretty to look at with it's bright red flowers. this is also good for chickens to free range on in winter months.
One of the easiest and most economical ways to improve your soil is to plant green manures, commonly called cover crops. Most garden soils can be maintained at their highest level of productivity by sound soil management practices that involve a combination of soil tillage, crop rotation, and most importantly, the addition of organic matter through green manures. Organic matter is the ''food'' component of soil. Soil-dwelling fungi and bacteria work to break down organic matter. When these soil microorganisms eat organic matter, nutrients are released back into the soil in a form that is usable by plants. This process is called nutrient cycling. Nutrient cycling affects both the physical and chemical properties of the soil. The addition of organic matter builds soil structure, which increases water absorption and nutrient-holding capacity, buffers the soil pH, and improves aeration. Cover crops choke out weeds by restricting sunlight to the soil, stabilize the soil surface, and through their deep-reaching roots, help to break up hardpan and bring minerals to the surface for other plants to utilize. As part of a long-term rotation plan, cover crops can provide for a stable habitat within your garden for beneficial insects and microorganisms.
Green manures can be grown in the same year as a vegetable crop, such as a cover crop of white clover planted around a cole crop. They can also be grown as a perennial in orchards and vineyards. In mild climates (zones 6 and above), cover crops can be fall planted and tilled in the following spring just before planting. In harsher climates, cover crops can be grown in rows between the crops or as a component of rotation in your garden. Green manure crops are a superior source of organic matter when they are cut and turned under. In addition to this benefit, legume green manures (peas, beans, clovers, favas and vetch) act as a host for the bacteria that fix and make nitrogen available for your vegetable or fruit crops. this is a bit from territorial seed company on cover crops.
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your posts were helpful Stephanie. I think I need to do a cover crop this winter to help my soil.
I try:) make sure you get one that will die off instead of spread is the only thing I can say I would do different with any cover crop.
yeah, from what I remember last time, the cover crop (which I really think I overplanted by spreading too much seed) absolutely exploded in the spring when it was rainy but getting warmer out. I don't remember what I planted but I want to say it might have been clover? so this time I definitely want one that will die off .
ya the one I did was red clover and it went nuts in the spring rains when it warmed up. had a devil of a time with it and still do a bit some keeps creeping back. I think if any cover crop gets done this one will be the easiest to till back in.Winter Wheat Cover Crop

Triticum aestivum This cool-weather grain is quick germinating, cold tolerant, and has an extensive fibrous root system. Adaptable to a wide range of soils, Winter Wheat is sown in late summer for erosion control and tilled under in early spring to add organic matter. Winter hardy nearly anywhere, and won't go to seed until its second year of growth. Recommended seeding rate: 1–2 pounds per 1000 square feet; 50 pounds per acre.
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