Late autumn and early winter often leave our gardens looking bare and unsightly. One way to improve both the appearance and the health of your garden is to use winter cover crops.
Cover crops, also known as green manure, are grasses and legumes that grow quickly. As soon as summer crops are harvested and the last, struggling tomato plant has succumbed to frost, you can plant your cover crops. Any rains that come will help speed their growth. Before they can flower, they are cut back and/or tilled back into the soil.
Legumes are particularly valuable as they add nitrogen to the soil. Popular legume cover crops include Black-eyed peas (pictured above), Fava beans, soy beans, red or crimson clover, and hairy vetch. You can even grow peas and keep trimming the tips (which are excellent in salads) to prevent them from flowering and going to seed. Once a legume has gone to seed, it begins pulling nitrogen from the soil like any other plant. Of course, there's nothing wrong with fresh peas and beans!
Cover crops also help reduce erosion, suppress weeds, and improve soil health. Inexpensive and easy to grow, cover crops are a simple investment in your garden’s long term health. [They look nice, too!]
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!