Well, the spring garden season has officially come to a close for us. It’s far too hot to grow much of anything right now, and so the garden is taking a bit of a break. Or is it?
This summer we’re embarking on an experiment in cover crops. You may have heard it called green manure as well. Basically, a cover crop is a crop that is cultivated on a field or garden in the off season. Why use cover crops you ask? Well, I’ll tell ya!
Cover crops can …
- put nutrients back into the soil.
- be cut down and tilled into the soil and used as compost, hence the name ‘green manure’.
- be used a fodder for rabbits, chickens, and goats.
- help ward off nematodes and weeds.
- help protect the soil from erosion.
Cool, right?! There are several different cover crops you can choose from, and your area and the season in which you wish to plant them will be determining factors in choosing the right one. Go to your local extension service for information specific to your area. A few common crops used as cover crops are, peanuts, velvet beans, alfalfa, bermuda grass, wheat, and buckwheat. For our homestead, I chose to use cowpeas as a cover crop. I chose them for a few reasons, they are a great warm weather crop, they thrive in sandy, nutrient deprived soils, and they can be used as fodder for my hens and rabbit. I was also able to find a local (in-state) non-GMO source at a great price. So cowpeas it is!
With the help of my kids, we broadcast seeded the entire garden bed last week. They had a lot of fun doing that! We’ll let the cowpeas grow until they begin producing flowers, and then we’ll cut them down and collect some for fodder and till the rest into the soil. About three weeks after that, we’ll plant our fall garden! I’m anxious to see how this goes. And you know I’ll keep you guys updated on the progress!
Have you used cover crops before? Do you have any advice for me? I’d love to hear about your cover crop experiences!
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