Under Cover (Crops)

Under Cover (Crops)

Cover Crops

The growing season is nearly done here in Oregon. There are a few things yet finishing up. I planted my tomatoes quite late this year and so am still pulling in ripening fruit each day. I pick them at the first sign of color and let them ripen in the house in a bag so that they don’t split on the vine from the rain.

I also have some squash that is just now getting ready for harvest and will be throughout this month.

But the majority of the garden has finished producing.  I am going to try something new this year.

I am planning to plant a cover crop in my beds this year. Normally I cover my beds with some cardboard after the last of the fall harvest. This keeps the weeds down and slows the leaching of nutrients by the heavy winter rains.  It also draws up the worms and insects in the soil that break down the organic matter.  This allows the micro-organisms to do their thing, producing nutrients in the soil that veggies find yummy.

There are some drawbacks to the cardboard mulch, though. It opens the door for  unwanted pests, destructive insects, molds and fungi. Also, the aesthetics are bad.  I would much rather see a carpet of green in my winter garden.cover crops

Condition the Soil

By planting a green manure cover crop such as hairy vetch and winter rye I will be avoiding the problems that come with the tight cover of the cardboard sheets and also condition the soil.  This adds important nutrients when reworked into the soil in the spring.

Each year I end up adding in about three or four inches of compost to replace the organic matter to the soil that was consumed in the previous garden. This illustrates the importance of replenishing the soil and what better way than a cover that can return nitrogen and other nutrients needed by your garden.

No need to wait.

You can wait and plant your entire garden after removing the plants after harvest, or, like me with my late harvest on some areas, you can plant the cover in the bare areas and in between and around the plants that remain to harvest. When you remove the final plant, simply sow some more seeds in the now bare areas and the cover will bill in as well from the already established carpet.

More on green manure crops coming soon.

I will have an update on my progress and some more about cover crops including which are best alone and which work in combination.

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Hi I’m Ron. I am a woodcarver, writer and gardener. I have a wife who has put up with me for nearly 34 years, three wonderful adult sons and three delightful grandchildren.

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