Cover Crops

| 11/19/2013 8:10:00 AM

Erin SheehanAfter we’re done planting garlic and tilling in leaves, the last thing we do to put the garden to bed for winter is planting our cover crop: winter rye.

Cover crops help lessen erosion and suppress spring weed growth. The roots loosen soil and the tops add organic matter when it’s tilled back into the garden.

Winter rye seeds

There are many types of cover crops. Those used in our area include annual ryegrass, winter rye, winter wheat, oats, white clover, sweet clover, hairy vetch, and buckwheat. We plant winter rye because it is one of the few that can be planted so late in the year. And although we plant it probably a bit on the late side, it seems to work.

Our garden stays productive through November. Even now we are still harvesting beets, bok choi, swiss chard, lettuce, collard greens, and broccoli. Because our remaining crops tend to be scattered throughout the garden it’s not easy to get in there and till. Jim waits until we’ve pulled out most of the plants and then tills all the leaves from our property and from our neighbors as well. Any cover crop that has to be planted even as late as the end of September would not work for us. Rye can be planted at the end of October or early November in our area.