Plain and simple – there is no better path to a healthier, more productive, low-maintenance garden than planting a fall cover crop.
And as if that wasn’t enough, it is one of the easiest gardening chores you will ever perform!
The Cover Crop Phenomenon
Each and every fall, for the last 8 growing season, we have put our garden “to bed” with a planting of annual (cereal) rye. And each spring, it always rewards us with rejuvenated soil.
Soil that is teeming with minerals and nutrients!
But perhaps best of all, our cover crops help us to create a garden with near-zero weeding, the entire year around.
For us, it really has been the ultimate secret to creating a productive garden with little effort.
And by little effort, we really mean little!
It takes mere minutes each fall to plant each of our growing rows with a cover crop.
But here’s the real kicker. After the crops die back in the spring, we simply plant right through them. Which mean no tilling, no digging, and no waiting for the soil to dry out.
You can’t get much more low-maintenance than that! ( See : How To Create A Simple No-Till Garden With Cover Crops)
Not quite convinced yet? Then take a look at these 5 incredible benefits that planting a fall cover will bring to your garden:
How Planting A Fall Cover Crop Works – 5 Amazing Benefits!
#1 Protects Your Soil
A cover crop starts helping by keeping your precious garden soil from being exposed through the winter months.
Harsh winter rains, snow and wind all work to erode the top layer of your soil. And unfortunately, that top layer is by far the best layer of soil in any garden.
It includes among other things, all of that compost and other organic matter you work so hard to put into your garden.
But it can be lost easily without protection. And a cover crop provides just that – serious protection!
#2 Loosening The Soil
While the top growth of a cover crop protects your soil, the roots dig deep to help loosen hard soil.
Which in turn, makes it far easier for next year’s crop to put down deeper roots. And deeper roots mean less watering, and better protection against heat and drought for your plants.
Our annual rye cover crop grows 6 to 8″ down in the soil, working to keep soil loose and clump free. ( Product Link : Annual (Cover Crop) Rye Seeds)
#3 Making Nitrogen Available For Plants
Nitrogen is one of the biggest key elements needed for vegetable plants to flourish. And many of our favorite crops, such as tomatoes and peppers, can deplete it quickly from the soil as they grow.
But tiny nodules in the roots of a cover crop like annual rye actually “fix” nitrogen levels in the soil.
And in the process, make it readily available for next year’s crops.
Ever had a garden that grew well for a few years and then slowly started producing less? Most likely, the loss of nitrogen and other key elements in the soil was to blame.
#4 Adding Organic Matter
And speaking of nutrients and elements, nothing beats having garden soil with a high content level of organic matter.
And the more organic matter present, the better your crops will respond!
As a cover crop breaks down into the soil, it add a tremendous amount of organic material to the garden. It all leads to creating a loose, friable soil structure plants thrive in.
#5 Eliminating Weeds
Maybe best of all, a cover crop can make a serious dent on next year’s garden weeds.
How so? Weeds in the fall are crowded out as the lush, thick growth of the cover crop fills in.
Even better, the dense growth keeps blowing and drifting weed seeds from ever finding bare soil to “plant” themselves for the following year. And that means a garden with fewer and fewer weeds, each and every year.
So whatever you do, get out there this year and make planting a fall cover crop a priority in your garden.
Happy Gardening! Jim and Mary.
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