Ground that would otherwise be bare during the winter can be well-protected by cover crops, also known as green manures. Digging them in will help to increase the organic matter in your soil, which is fantastic for the vegetables that will come after. The best time to plant a cover crop for the winter is at the end of the summer. To learn exactly how to do it, continue reading or watch our video.
In order to protect or enrich the soil for subsequent crops, cover crops are cultivated. Over the winter, keeping the soil covered prevents erosion and supports all the beneficial life that grows there. Additionally, it makes it harder for weeds to grow, resulting in cleaner planting or sowing areas in the spring. At the end of the winter, dig the cover crop into the ground, and it will break down and add valuable organic matter, helping to feed the plants that come after.
Rye is cultivated as a winter cover crop.
When it comes to cover crops, cereal rye is the best at retaining soil nitrogen.
By breaking up the soil, cover crops with deep or fibrous roots, such cereal rye, aid in improving the soil's structure. Others, such as mustard, develop quickly to provide an abundance of luxuriant foliage that may be added to the soil in a few of months to increase its organic content. When planted in clay soil before winter so that frosts have a chance to break up the soil, mustard is a particularly useful cover crop. This method can also be used to generate abundant salads like mache or corn salad.
Some cover crops fix nitrogen at their roots, adding nutrients directly to the soil. Winter field beans and peas, clover, and vetch are a few examples. All of these legume varieties are excellent choices to plant before brassicas like cabbage, which are nitrogen-hungry.
Phacelia will strengthen the structure of your soil and is excellent at reducing weeds.
In milder climates, phacelia can be planted in late summer; if your winters are chilly, wait until spring. Phacelia will strengthen the structure of your soil and is excellent at controlling weeds. Consider letting a small patch of the flowers to bloom to pull in bees and hoverflies because they are beautiful and a big draw for them. Another excellent example is buckwheat, which has several advantages for controlling weeds, enriching the soil, and serving as a source of honey for helpful insects in the spring.
To choose the ideal cover crop sowing time for your region, consult the planting schedule in our garden planner.
Start by roughly preparing the land for sowing a cover crop. All weeds should be pulled, especially perennial ones. Spread your seeds uniformly throughout the soil surface after tamping down the earth with the back of a rake. Don't plant them too deeply. If the ground is dry, moisten it after raking the seeds into the soil and compacting it with the back of your rake.
Winter field bean seeds can also be put in rows because they are large seeds. Create trenches that are about two inches (5 cm) deep with a spade or a hoe. Trenches should be eight inches (20 cm) apart. Then, fill the trenches to cover them after sowing them about four inches (10 cm) apart.
The majority of the time, it's ideal to plant your cover crop in the ground before it starts to bloom, possibly leaving a couple for early benevolent insects. The stems will still be tender at this point, making them simpler to break up and dig into and more quickly decaying. Include the leaves in the soil by incorporating it, or simply chop it off and leave it on the surface as a mulch for the worms to burrow in for you. If you're worried about weeds coming up, cover it with cardboard. To give them ample time to start degrading, cover crops should be buried at least a month before sowing or planting.