Working With The Summer Part Three

With Fall less than a month away, I wondered was there really any reason to continue the Working With the Summer series. I reasoned, “I mean it’s just one more blog; I could just let it go.” Hmm. Well folks, I just checked the mail came back in sweaty and in need of refreshment. What a reminder of the Southern heat and humidity which laughs in the face of Fall. “Ha, ha, haaa!”, it taunts. So yes – yes, we will continue the series to its conclusion today.

Select & Plant Cover Crop

Cover crop is something that I never even knew existed. Ahem … let’s just say I have come a long way. Now there are fancy ways of defining things but the short and sweet of it is that cover crop does just what is indicated in the name. It “covers” the ground. This is important because exposed soil is leached of its nutrients and beneficial bacteria.  If you applied some of our tips on cleaning up your garden beds already, and these beds will lay dormant for more than a month then cover crop can really be of benefit to you for several reasons.

  1. Maintaining Soil Structure. Most of us know that prior to planting out a new garden space the soil needs to be loosened or tilled. Since loose soil is much more productive that compacted soil, its something you want to maintain after working so hard to attain. The roots of the cover crops create space beneath the surface of the soil and the leaves of the crop aid in preventing soil erosion secondary to rain and wind.
  2. Weed Control. Most cover crops mixes are relentless in growth and compete heavily with weeds for available nutrients in the soil thus preventing their growth. You could call it a type of mulch. Some gardeners even cut these back when they die creating a literal mulch for their planting areas.
  3. Added Nutrients.  Depending on what type of cover crop you plant you have the potential to add back nitrogen. So in this case you would need to plant Legumes, Vtech, or Clover.  This is a quick & easy, easy cheat to build the soil up after growing heavy feeders such as squash or cucumbers.
    • Selection of your cover crop will depend on two things:
      • What are your needs? Ground cover? Prevent soil erosion? Weed control? Replenishing soil?
      • How long is cover crop needed? Through Fall? Through Winter?
  4. Food! Depending on the zone you are growing in you can grow anything from radishes to rye as a food cover crop! You get all of the above benefits plus you get to harvest produce at the same time! What more could a gardener want?! We had an unexpected treat last year. Along with Turnips, peas, 7 etc, our cover crop evidently contained Parsnips, of which we had no experience with – growing or cooking. Eagerly we learned and now they are among our favorite root crops!

If you plan to use any of our Working with the Summer tips please let us know how it went by sharing over on our Facebook or Instagram pages. From our family to yours!