As our garden starts to wind down for the winter, we have ended up with quite a bit of empty space, especially after we harvested all of our sweet potatoes, husk tomatoes and the last of our annual herbs. So what to do with all of this space? Some of it has been planted with winter greens; kale, cabbage, collards, kohlrabi, cauliflower, lettuce, arugula, beets, radish, turnips, etc, but there is still much more space that’s just empty. The answer? Cover crop.
Plants take quiet a bit of nutrients from the soil, some more than others, and some even put nutrients back in, more on that later. Certain plants take certain nutrients, and this is why it is super important to do two things: crop rotation, and the reintroduction of these nutrients. Adding fertilizer is one very easy way of doing that, and there are many options for that; commercial fertilizer from a garden center, composted manure or composted plants from last years garden, rabbit poop, the list goes on, and we will utilize some of these options in the spring when we get the beds going again for the year. Yet that leaves a lot of time between now and then, so once again, cover crop.
Cover crops are plants that are mainly used to manage soil fertility and erosion by growing in a full “cover” to add lots of organic matter and nutrients to the soil, as well as holding the soil in place with a strong root structure. We used two crops this year, clover and wheat. Why? Well a couple reasons, clover grows low to the ground, and the wheat grows high, so they grow very well together, and eventually the clover will even grow up the wheat. Clover is a legume, and legumes are amazing as they grow small nodules on their roots that are packed with nitrogen, and essential nutrient needed for healthy plants. Wheat has very strong roots that grow very deep and will therefore break up the soil and add air and allow moisture to penetrate. Lastly, when spring time comes around, we can harvest the wheat to use for food, as accents in bouquets, and even for medicinal use! The clover and the roots of the wheat will be tilled into the soil and add a ton of organic matter that will give us a super healthy bed to grow in. Totally worth out effort.