Cover crops are a great way to care for gardens during the times when they are not actively in production. While they might be considered a traditional farming technique, cover crops have benefits for the home gardener. Take a look below for some of those benefits.
Cover crops are a great tool to reduce weed outcroppings. For those that don’t like weeding, this is a natural tool to do the back breaking chore. Planting clover is a great choice. It will keep weed germination down by preventing sunlight from reaching weed seeds and seedlings.
Planting grass, legume or a broadleaf plant will prevent soil loss by wind or water erosion. These types of cover help to keep the soil in place and stabilized. Choosing a crop such as rye is a great choice to protect the soil from erosion.
Cover crops help to use excess nutrients that vegetable crops are unable to use. They can also add back valuable nutrients to the soil that have been used by production crops. When planted, cover crops also help to lessen soil compaction as their roots grow through the hard and dense areas of the soil. If these two areas are a problem, consider growing radishes of the forage and oilseed variety. They have large roots that are great for breaking up shallow layers of compacted soil. Typically planted in late summer, these radishes do not need to be harvested as they will die in winter, decompose and add valuable nitrogen back into the ground for the next growing season.
Cover crops seeds are available at local garden centers and farm stores. They are typically available in quantities that might be more than any one gardener could possibly use. Storing the excess in a cool and dry place will enable the seeds to be used for future plantings. Plant the seeds as directed and be sure to till them into the ground well in advance of planting production crops.
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