Preparing the Soil with Cover Crops

Cover Crops

Another eventful day in the  garden, today we planted a cover crop of Clover. But what is a cover crop you ask? Well…

A cover crop is a plant grown in the garden in order to help restore and prepare the soil for planting one’s desired crops. They offer a fairly astonishing array of benefits including (but not limited to) helping to maintain soil fertility, water capture, preventing weeds, pests and disease and even keeping out pesky wildlife like bunnies and deer.

The magic behind the cover crop is that it helps keep nutrients and water in the soil by maintaining the intricate root structures that help capture water beneath the surface, hold soil in place. While the roots work their subterranean magic, the plants themselves absorb nutrients, storing them like a mineral savings account.  Once the time has come to plant the end crop, the cover crops are tilled into the soil, returning all their stored nutrients back to the soil.

Depending on how you select your cover crops they can also act as deterrents for pests. Almost all cover crops will help to keep weeds out of your beds just by taking up the space and sun weeds need. The taller and larger the root structure of a plant, the more help they’ll offer in keeping weeds out. If you’ve got your eye on eliminating pests, cover crops can be pretty darn useful. Depending on what you need, cover crops can either “trap” pests by offering an enticing substitute for prize crops (planting alfalfa next to strawberries to keep out the lygus bugs) or can be a hot bed for insect warfare (planting vegetation to host predators to your pest). Tricksy huh?

We selected Clover as our cover crop. Clover is a particularly easy cover crop as it is a highly resilient plant, needing little attention or resources to flourish. Also Clover is a member of the reigning royal family of cover crops, Legumes. These clever plants draw nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil with the help of special bacteria that lives in nodules in their roots. If you want the nitty gritty the process check out nitrogen fixation.

Other legumes include: Soy, beans, lentils, peanuts, alfalfa, rooibos, peas. When in doubt look to one of these bad boys to fulfill your cover crop needs.

We’ll let you know when our clover starts to rear it’s head. Till next time!

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