I recently planted cover crops in some of my vegetable garden beds that are done producing for the year.
So, what are cover crops anyway? They are usually members of the legume or grass families that are planted in idle soil to suppress weeds, maybe to protect soil from erosion, or to add nutrients into the soil.
That last reason is why I'm growing cover crops and it's a really important one. In my opinion, it's very easy to take our soil for granted. Yet each year, the vegetable crops we grow in our gardens deplete the soil of different types of nutrients.
By planting cover crops in my raised beds, I'll be able to later turn those crops into the soil which adds nitrogen and other organic amendments to the soil. That will in turn give me better yields next year.
This year, I'm planting Austrian winter peas in my beds. They're a legume which has nitrogen-fixing attributes. Other examples of cover crops are different types of rye grasses and clovers. You can find cover crop seeds at large garden centers. If you live in Spokane, Northwest Seed & Pet stocks them.
To plant them, all you have to do is loosen the top few inches of the soil and then either plant the seeds in rows or broadcast them across the bed. For best results, plant cover crops about a month before the killing frosts start occurring so the roots can become established.
If the type of crop you are growing begins to flower, that's when you want to cut them down to the ground. Wait a couple of days for the plants to dry out, then turn them into the soil so they can decompose over the fall and winter.
I've found three excellent resources on the web for growing cover crops:
If you have any questions, just post a comment below or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.