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Cover Crops: Green Manure

September 30, 2016

Soil can’t be left unattended: soil isn’t something that should be alone. When the fall season crops up and the crops go down, gardeners and farmers alike should be covering the ground with plants that keep it alive. Cover crops keep the soil in health and fully nourished: these plants aren’t cash crops. Stated in a New York Times article from 2010, “The practice of seeding fields between harvests not only keeps topsoil in place, it also adds carbon to the soil and helps the beneficial microbes, fungus, bacteria and worms in it thrive.”

In our area, Barley, Buckwheat, and Rye are three excellent cover crops. Buckwheat is a great summer cover crop. It is a very large leafing crop, and when dead, it can be chopped up and put atop other plants to assist in their growth. Barley, planted in the late summer and early fall is a great large grain that covers the soil, dies with the cold, and enriches over the winter time. Great for protection, Barley would definitely be a recommendation.

Rye is a PERFECT winter cover crop: it holds the soil in place  because of its’ deep roots. It also is great, because of this, for water retention. Planting this is great in essentially any kind of soil because of how it grows and how hearty it is. Like other cover crops, it can easily be mixed with legumes like clover for a mixture of retention abilities.

The way to plant these cover crops is simple. Simply take the seeds in your hand and toss them all over the soil: there isn’t too much in this case. Once the area you want is covered, mix around the top of the soil so that there is a little bit of soil covering the seed (so that the birds and squirrels don’t attack).

If you’re not sold on them already, there are also more benefits to using these crops. Cover crops suppress weeds and control pests and diseases, too. They are an overall savior (just make sure you know if they will sprout again- you do not want them growing alongside your plants because they’ll take over!).


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