Tips on Planting a Fall Cover Crop
Whether you are growing vegetables on a large scale or as a home gardener, planting cover crops is a good thing to do for your soil’s health. Cover crops not only increases microbial activity, but helps prevent soil erosion, increases water infiltration, provides weed competition and if your mix includes legumes, it will add nitrogen to the soil. Cover crop seeds can be easily broadcast, raked in and covered with a thin layer of compost or a mulch like straw. Cool-season seeds can be planted in the fall and allowed to grow over the winter and turned under in the spring. The seeds will need to be watered until the fall rains arrive and allowed to establish before freezing temperatures arrive.
Get the Most out of Your Cover Crop
Raw legumes in your cover crops need to be inoculated (coated) with rhizobia bacteria in order to fix nitrogen on their roots. Inoculate your seeds right before you are ready to plant. Put your seeds in a bucket or big bowl and either moisten with non-chlorinated water or a mixture of milk and molasses (one quart and 2 Tbs, respectively). Adjust the amount of liquid you add to just moisten the seed. Sprinkle the inoculant over the seeds and stir to coat. Don’t skimp on the inoculant, more is better than not enough. Plant the seeds right away. The bacteria on the legumes’ roots in your cover crop will take atmospheric nitrogen and fix it in small nodules on the roots. When the roots break down, the nitrogen will be released into the soil.