Want to boost your plant growth and vegetable production without a log of work? Want to grow bitter and healthier vegetables next spring? then use this farmers secret this fall to replenish and add to your soil fertility.
No I’m not talking about some mysterious chemicals or rare substances. I’m talking about planting cover crops. What is a cover crop you ask? It’s simply a specially chosen annual plant, or mix of plants, which germinate in the Fall, hold and cover your soil in the Winter, and get cub back in the Spring.
Typically from the legume or grass families, cover crops return nitrogen from the atmosphere, and trace minerals from deep in the ground, to your top-soil. They also generate healthy bio-mass and mulch. My favorite site for learning about and selecting the proper cover crop for your application is Peaceful Valley Farms at GrowOrganic.com.
Sowing cover crops is easy. Here is what you do:
- Rake – Gently rake a thin layer of soil, just deep enough to plant the cover crop seeds. Don’t till!
- Scatter – Scatter your seeds by hand or with a spreader.
- Cover – Cover your seeds with a thin layer of soil using your rake, or you can spread fresh top-soil or compost over them. Then lightly mulch; just enough to protect the seeds from birds and retain moisture.
- Water – Water well after mulching, then every couple days until the crop is well established.
In about a week’s time your see your crop emerge. Many cover crops such as clover will flower as well adding fall and/or spring color to your garden.
Come planting time next spring, cut down your crop using a scythe or mower. Depending on the height of the crop you chose, you may have to cut it in stages. You want fairly small cuttings in the end, because this will serve as mulch for your spring garden. A double bonus because you got nutrient replenishment in the off-season, and you don’t need to bring in another mulch in the planing season.
Remember, here at Dirt Simple we practice Permaculture, so you are not going to disturb your soil biome by tilling in your cover crop. We are just “chopping and dropping”. Dig only as much as required to put in any plants you are transferring to the ground from pots, or to bury seeds. Your cover crop was an annual so it is not going to regenerate and compete with your vegetables. If a few plants do re-qrow, no problem. You can cut them again and keep adding them back to the soil to nourish your growing produce.
Use the cover crop secret this Fall to increase your harvest and save time, money, and effort in your garden next spring.