I surround myself with Peaceful Valley co-workers from 9-5 and farmer friends after hours. With August just around the corner, all I hear about are cover crops or green manure and how wonderful they are. This year I actually stopped and asked for clarification about how legume cover crops "fix pounds of nitrogen".
If you add an organic, nitrogen-rich fertilizer to promote vegetative growth, you already know how critical nitrogen is to your garden. Now imagine planting an inoculated legume seed this fall, letting it grow all winter, and tilling it under in the spring to achieve the same "fertilization". Pretty neat!
Pounds of nitrogen?
Just what are we measuring and comparing? We've taken care of the crop sampling and calculating for you! On our Cover Crops page there is a left sidebar and if you click on Features, it will show you different capabilities of our cover crops. You can sort them by "easily established" or "good weed competition", for instance. You can also sort for "fixes nitrogen". In each product description we tell you how much nitrogen a particular cover crop fixes.
You can go to the store and buy a 6 lb. box of powdered fertilizer. It of course weighs 6 lbs. If you grow cover crop, we tell you the weight of the dried nitrogen content. So if you plant a cover crop like our Premium Soil Builder Mix (which fixes 20 lbs. of nitrogen per 3,000 sq. ft.) you'll reap the equivalent benefit of 20 lbs. of powdered 100% nitrogen fertilizer.
My 50’ x 60’ garden example: The Premium Soil Builder Mix can fix up to 20 lbs. of nitrogen in my 3,000 sq. ft. garden. All I need is 15 lbs. of inoculated Premium Soil Builder Mix (15 lbs of SCM120 is $29.85, plus $10.49 x 2 Garden Combination Inoculant = $50.83). If I inoculate and plant this fall and till into my soil in the spring, I will enjoy the high levels of nitrogen in my garden as well as other benefits that come from increased organic matter and microbial life. Alternatively, in the spring I could buy 500 lbs. (10 bags) of Nutri-Rich 4-3-2 fertilizer (one of the best values with 4% nitrogen) for over $155 to achieve the same nitrogen payout! So in the end I will definitely invest $50.83 in Cover Crops this fall for my large, 3,000 sq. ft. garden and I'll save at least $104 in fertilizers come spring.