Fall is here! It is hard to believe that it is already October. The time is approaching to put our vegetable gardens to rest. Before you do, I would like you to consider establishing a cover crop before winter arrives. Cover crops are planted in an unused garden space to protect the soil and enrich organic matter.
Planting cover crops instead of having bare ground between crops or growing seasons is extremely beneficial. Cover crops contribute to soil, water and plant relationships. They also help to manage pathogens, pest and weeds. If there is a bare spot, weeds will find it!
Here are some benefits to planting cover crops:
- Improves soil structure through the addition of organic matter
- Reduces soil compaction through the addition of organic matter
- Increases the nutrient holding capacity and water infiltration rates through the addition of organic matter
- Prevents surface crusting of the soil
- Aids in the reduction of soil erosion
- Helps to suppress weeds, insects and disease pathogens
- Legumes (peas, beans, clover, and vetch) will refurbish nitrogen in the soil.
Legumes, because of their deep root systems, improve soil drainage and bring up nutrients from the subsoil which is made available to shallow-rooted plants. Non-legumes crops (rye, oats, buckwheat and wheat) can also be used as cover crops. These crops can improve soil structure and increase organic matter content in soils.
Organic matter has many beneficial roles in the soil. It is vital to maintain and increase it over time. Many of our soils here in Shelby County are less than 5 percent organic matter. Organic matter is also important in enhancing the quality and productivity of our native soil.
Autumn is a terrific time to try a cover crop and expand your gardening possibilities. Your soil and microbes will thank you. If you have any gardening questions, please give me a call at 901-752-1207. I am happy to help! Be safe out there.
Photo Credits: Julie Morgan; Shannon Hammers