Winter is Coming, Time to Put a Cover On

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It is time to put a cover on your garden, a cover crop that is. Cover crops are an amazing addition to any garden.

Cover crops are truly amazing. They benefit the garden in many different ways: recycling nutrients, breaking up compaction, increasing the soil's water holding capacity, suppressing weeds, adding nitrogen, attracting pollinators, adding soil organic matter, stimulating beneficial soil organisms and preventing soil loss. The pictures show: buckwheat, a summer cover crop; daikon radish, a summer crop with a deep, fast growing taproot; and a mixture of cereal rye, daikon radish and buckwheat- a fall cover crop with two summer crops.

Planting a cover crop in the fall will protect your garden's soil from washing away in the winter and spring rains. They will break up any compacted soil that may have been caused by our walking or tilling the soil when it was wet. Finally, a growing cover crop will keep the soil's microbial life alive, which is very important to having readily available nutrients for our plants in the spring.

Right now, we can still plant cereal rye (sometimes known as "winter rye") as a cover crop. Cereal rye will germinate down to 40 deg. F and will continue to grow down to 38 deg. F. It is very easy to seed. All you have to do is just evenly scatter 4-5 pounds of seeds per 1000 sq ft of your garden. That's it!

Cereal rye seed can be purchased from many on-line garden suppliers such as Johnny's Selected Seeds, Territorial Seed Co., Burpee Seeds, etc. Also, it is carried in many Home Depot stores.

Cover crops make a good garden, even better. Let's put a cover on our gardens.