Hi I'm Tricia a California organic gardener. Cover cropping is a tried and true organic technique. Today i'm gonna talk about the benefits of cover cropping and how to adapt it to your garden.
There are many benefits to cover cropping. In the vegetable garden for example the main benefits are adding nitrogen to the soil, suppressing the weeds and attracting the beneficial insects. Cover crops are a great strategy for reducing the erosion of hillsides and of topsoil. The major benefit for vineyards and orchards is soil fertility, increased soil tilth, and water infiltration. Cover crops can also help reduce dust and in wet winter climates keep your vineyard or orchard from being too muddy.
Choosing the right cover crop and managing it properly are essential to receiving all the benefits. Today our focus is on cover cropping in the vegetable garden this garden needs a nitrogen fixing cover crop that will be planted after harvest then the winter rain will water all winter and then in the spring it will be worked back into the soil to increase the fertility and the nitrogen. To grow a robust cover crop the soil needs to have adequate amounts of potassium, sulfur, phosphorus and calcium. A soil test is a good way to make sure that you have ample amounts of those minerals. I've prepared these beds by loosening the soil to get it ready to plant the cover crop just like I would do if I was planting my spring vegetables. Today I'm going to be planting this premium soil builder mix. This mix is formulated to add lots of organic matter, fix nitrogen, chock out weeds and provide a great habitat for beneficial insects.
Before I plant the seed i'm going to inoculate with this rhizobium bacteria. This bacteria lives in the roots of these legume plants and pulls nitrogen from the air and converts it to a form usable by plants this is what we call nitrogen fixing. To inoculate the seed you can dampen it with either water or a mixture of milk and molasses and then just pour on the inoculate and then stir to coat the seed well. So I'm going to hand broadcast this seed and the best time to do it for most of the country is between September first and October thirtieth. For colder climates and higher elevations it's probably more like August fifteenth to September first. After spreading the seed all we need to do is cover it up with some soil and mulch. If the Autumn rains haven't come by the time your ready to plant your cover crop be sure and give it adequate irrigation. When the flowers start to bloom i'll cut down the growth and let it dry for a week or two before tilling or working the growth into the soil. If you don't plan on tilling it in just add the nitrogen rich material to your compost pile i'm expecting big benefits this spring in addition to a lot of organic matter, increased water filtration, weed suppression and attracting beneficial insects the premium soil builder mix can fix up to twenty pounds of nitrogen in my three thousand square foot garden. Comparing cover cropping with buying fertilizer i can spend twenty two dollars and thirty four cents in cover crops this fall and i'll save a hundred twenty-five dollars in fertilizers come spring. There's a seed mix for every need check out our cover crop solution finder to make the best choice for your hillside, your orchard, your vineyard or your vegetable garden. Plant a cover crop this Autumn and grow organic for life.