Last fall I planted my first cover crop. Like most urban gardeners, I thought cover crops were only for large scale farms. Farms like my granddaddy tended that were acres and acres wide. So I was surprised to learn that cover crops are perfect for urban gardens like yours and mine.
Throughout all my years of gardening, I can’t recall any of my gardener friends talk about using cover crops to enhance the soil quality in their gardens. A large display of Pennington Naturals Cover Crops in Lowe’s caught my eye and made me look a bit closer at the idea of using cover crops in Mocha Gardens.
Cover crops – also called “green manure” are plants that are grown mainly for the protection and enhancement of the soil. Plants commonly used as cover crops include grasses (ryegrass and sorghum) and grains (rye, wheat, barley and oats) and legumes.
The ideal time to sow cover crops is during the fall just before the first frost. I was happy to see how quickly my seeds germinated. The greenery was a welcome sight, especially after I had ripped out all the expired tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers out of the garden.
I just love how healthy and vibrant the sprouts are!
Crimson Clover is such a treat to see growing in the garden! The tall, vibrant red blooms are so beautiful against a sea of green, especially as spring emerges and I’m eager to see color in my garden again.
Legumes have the unique ability of being able to capture nitrogen (the most important element for plant development) from the air as it grows and then return it to the soil when it is turned under.
In spring, the cover crops are cut down and worked into the soil anywhere between 2-4 weeks before planting garden crops. As this green manure breaks down, it releases nutrients into the soil that your garden plants will love. You can plant cover crops every year, if you like, to boost your soil quality.
This is how your bed should look after you thoroughly turn the cover crops into the existing soil.
This week I have tomato, pepper, cucumber, ground cherries, zinnia and aster seedlings hardening off. I’ll be transplanting them from the greenhouse into raised beds over the next few days. I can’t wait to see how things grow in the garden this year after incorporating cover crops into my planting design.
I’ll keep ya posted!