By Engrid Winslow
So, you’ve heard of cover crops, right? Green Manure is a cover crop that is tilled into the soil while it is still green and alive. There are many different types of plants that are used as cover crops but are most commonly peas, clovers, vetch, rye, oats, buckwheat, barley and mustard. Always trim them back before tilling in and before they go to seed. This green plant matter provides a burst of microbial life to the soil which is important in enriching your vegetable or flower beds in the spring. Different types of cover crops provide different benefits to the soil ranging from:
- Preventing soil erosion
- Stabilizing soil temperatures
- Reducing water loss
- Reducing weeds
- Fixing soil nitrogen (peas and vetch)
- Providing habitat and food for pollinators (clover, vetch and buckwheat)
- Accumulating phosphorus in the soil
- Reducing nutrient loss during the winter
When choosing a cover crop you should be aware that some form deep roots (i.e. rye) and can be more difficult to till into the soil. Peas, barley and oats are much easier to work into your beds and never, ever let vetches go to seed or you will have a rampant weed on your hands.
A great time to plant cover crops also occurs in the fall after the first hard freeze and you have pulled out all those dead tomato and cucumber plants. Check out our Green Manure which contains a great mixture of peas, two types of vetch, rye and oats. You’ll be giving your soil something to do over the winter. Gardeners have become more aware in recent years that there are microbes living in the soil all year round. They have a symbiotic relationship with plant roots and need them to stay alive.