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Author: admin, 15.12.2013. Category: What Is Organic Food

Brandon Hines incorporates winter rye and hairy vetch cover crops in spring at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Goldsboro, NC. If you have harvested everything from your vegetable garden and decided not to plant cool-season crops, then now is the time to start a cover crop, which just means planting something to cover up the dirt. Leaving your spent vegetable garden’s soil bare through the winter lets rain and snow leach out nutrients such as nitrogen. With summer gardens spent, fall is an ideal time to plant a cover crop, since most cover crops require between two and four months to reach their desired stage.
Spreading leaves over the garden will increase the amount of soil organic matter and control weeds, but the garden doesn’t benefit from that process as much as it does with a cover crop.
Cover crop seeds are available at many garden stores as well as online through seed companies. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of State-by-State Gardening, its parent company or affiliates. My fall vegetable garden is in full swing and it is time to inspect and reflect on what is working and what needs to be reevaluated for next year.┬áThis year I am trying a different approach to my fall garden planting. I went out in the garden on pest patrol this morning and found that overall things are going well. My insect pest problem this year looks much better than some of my previous fall gardens where I had white fly and aphid infestations so bad I pulled the plants and threw them to the chickens. My favorite pest control insect, the European paper wasp (often misidentified as a yellow jacket), is in short supply this time of the year as the nests disperse and the queens look for a place to overwinter. The cover crop strips can provide shade for seedlings in the last hot days of summer and early fall. My goal was to use mulch and cover crops to improve the soil, suppress weeds, attract beneficial insects, and move toward a point where I need to turn the soil minimally if at all. One thing I learned is to plant the veggie seeds before the cover crop seeds or just plan on trimming down the fast growing cover crop mix before it overwhelms the slower veggies. Next spring I will continue to plant in a similar way using heavy mulch and cover crop strips and see if it leads to healthier plants with less insect pest problems. I would also like to try using radishes for bio-drilling into the clay and compaction layer. I love your site Adam … it is totally inspiring me to try this cover crop method in the garden. Some gardeners sow these plants in spring, especially in new garden plots to improve the soil and choke out weeds. If you dig a new garden bed in spring or early summer, grow one or two crops of heat-loving buckwheat or beans. Another way to use green manures is in established vegetable gardens after early-maturing vegetables have been harvested. Many plants in the legume family, such as peas, beans, vetch and clover, grow in cooperation with soil-dwelling bacteria. Most soils in Minnesota have adequate populations of the bacteria needed to form the association with legumes, but you may choose to buy a powdered inoculum containing the bacteria when you buy the legume seed, to ensure that fixation occurs. These grains are cold hardy and if planted in late summer will begin growing again in early spring. Rye can develop a very extensive and tough root system that may be difficult to break up, making tilling and planting more difficult. Reviewed by Cindy Tong, Extension Post-Harvest Horticulturist, University of Minnesota Extension, 1-08 and Vince Fritz, Extension Horticulturist – Vegetables, University of Minnesota Extension 1-08. We are selling quite a bit of organic cover crop seed this year to homesteaders, farmers and gardeners.
Cover crops help to add nitrogen back into the soil as well as add a source of green manure.

Big-time farmers plant cover crops such as clover and rye, and backyard gardeners can reap the same benefits for their dormant gardens during the winter months with a cover crop. That nutrient loss is on top of those lost in the summer to vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and corn.
Prepare the soil as you would for any other crop, applying lime or fertilizer as needed by a soil test.
They are easy to germinate and easy to get rid of in the spring when the garden is to be replanted with vegetables. Instead, O’Connell recommended composting leaves with other yard and household waste, and then adding the compost to the garden as a soil builder and natural fertilizer.
They add color, texture and blooms to a vegetable garden so that it looks vibrant and productive throughout the year.
My goal was to get fall veggies growing right when I sometimes have a late summer lull in my gardening ambitions.
I am seeing a lot of beneficial hover flies and tachinid flies around the buckwheat blooms.
I have been encouraging paper wasp nests this past summer as they are excellent cabbage worm hunters.
I started many things by seed, but I also bought some veggie starts from the farmers market. I realized in some of my smaller beds I tried to squeeze too much in and the cover crops are crowding my carrots and beets.
In established vegetable or flower gardens, plant a green manure early in the season to improve the soil. If you start a new garden in late summer, plant ryegrass, rapeseed, or oats, which grow quickly in cool weather. You can plant green manure where these vegetables were growing to keep garden weed-free, prevent soil erosion, and add organic matter to the soil.
Mow the plants down if they flower, to prevent them from self-seeding and becoming weeds themselves.
In order to accumulate enough fixed nitrogen in the soil to nourish future plants, leguminous cover crops would have to be grown for an entire season. Buckwheat flowers are a favorite nectar source for bees, but if you allow either of these species to flower and set seed, hundreds of plants will come up the next year. They can be grown as both green manures and edible crops: first harvest the pods, then turn the plants under.
They're good for areas that will be planted late in spring with warm-season vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers or squash. It is clear that most get the benefits – increased organic matter, nitrogen fixation, erosion control, beneficial insect support, and reduced need for fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Secondly, organic cover cropping is creating an improved soil structure that allows for better root development and therefore better water and mineral uptake. The use of organic cover crop, of course, also improves our water quality, reduces chemicals in the soil, and creates a cleaner, more nutrient dense food. Growing a cold-weather cover crop reintroduces nutrients to the soil, improves soil quality, can control weeds, breaks the cycles or diseases or pests, attracts insect pollinators and decreases soil erosion for gardens on a slope.
Clovers are part of the legume family, which can fix nitrogen in the soil and thus boost nitrogen for next spring’s garden. Then work the crop into the soil with a garden tiller or by hand with a shovel or pitchfork. In the past I have had trouble with aphids, white flies, and cabbage worms in the early fall. There is noticeable damage from cabbage worms and I found the occasional white fly and a few small clusters of aphids.

The low number of paper wasps out in the fall may contribute to the increase in insect pests I often see in my fall garden.
There were a few rows where seeds did not germinate or something (slugs or earwigs?) gobbled up the seedlings. If I have to trim down my buckwheat mixed cover crop, it will never have a chance to bloom.
The mix I planted this fall includes: ryegrain, winter triticale, winter peas, ryegrass, vetch, and clover as well as the buckwheat I tossed in. After you turn it under, plant warm-season vegetables, bedding plants or container-grown perennials.
In late fall or the following spring, turn in the dead plant material and plant flowers or vegetables in the new, improved bed. In spring, turn dead plant material from green manures into the soil before sowing seeds or transplanting seedlings.
Chemicals released as ryegrass decomposes may keep small seeds, such as those of carrot and lettuce, from germinating. Turn the green manure into the soil in mid-May, then plant heat-loving vegetables at the end of the month or in early June.
Also, the addition of organic matter improves the beneficial soil microbial life, which improves plant vigor and reduces pests and diseases.
Undoubtedly one of the best things we can do to feed ourselves is to feed the soil on which we grow thru organic cover crop techniques. Mow one to two times when at least 12 inches tall, or when half of the crop has immature seed heads.
O’Connell said that gardeners can either mix in the entire cover crop or create 1- to 2-foot-wide planting strips, leaving the rest as surface mulches that will decompose over time and serve as walkways. We are not medical professionals and cannot recommend the ingestion or topical application of any herbal remedy, poultice, tea, etc.
In between each row I laid down a layer of straw mulch to retain moisture and keep the weeds down. The days in Southern Oregon are still warm and they nights cool but usually not freezing until late October. No where did I find any infestation of insect pests doing significant damage to a single plant. The soil will contain more organic matter and more beneficial microorganisms, and there will be fewer weeds than before. This process is often referred to as "fixing nitrogen." When the legume dies and its roots begin to decompose, residual nitrogen in the nodules becomes available to other plants. The other thing that folks forget though is the lowered cost of production thru increased yield.
If the green manure is one that doesn't die over winter, wait about two weeks after you turn in the living plant material before seeding or transplanting. Minnesota farmers take advantage of nitrogen fixation when they plant soybeans in rotation with corn. The soybeans fix nitrogen in the soil; the following year the corn plants use the nitrogen.

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