Cover Crops – Planting cover crops is an organic gardening strategy that gets far too little credit. Cover crops are also called green manure and planting them is easy, inexpensive and very beneficial for the soil. These crops are usually seeded in the summer or late fall for overwintering.
The following are ways cover crops or green manure help your garden…
- Green manure moderates the temperature of soil, making it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
- The roots of cover crops dig deep into the subsoil, drawing up nutrients from there and making them available to garden plants.
- High in nitrogen leguminous cover crops such as bean, lentil, lupins and Alfalfa can convert the nitrogen from the air into plant food. Early growers have always rotated peas or clover to fertilize grain crops long before synthetic fertilizers were introduced.
- Sowing cover crops for overwintering will prevent the soil from becoming compacted. It also prevents runoff erosion and nutrient leaching from snow and rain.
- During hot summers, a cover crop maintains soil moisture and encourages healthy soil life. Wind erosion is prevented by green manure in both the summer and winter seasons.
- Cover crops have deep root systems that break up heavy soil thus increasing drainage and improving tilth.
- Cover crops can smother weeds thus controlling or minimizing weed problems.
- When the cover crop is turned under, more organic matter is added to the soil. Organic matter can improve the soil’s ability to hold nutrients and water, encourages or increases soil microorganisms and improves soil pH level.