Planting cover crops are a great way to feed your garden. Adding nitrogen and natural fertilizer to your backyard garden just got easier. And it doesn’t involve moving around a ton of compost. Discover 7 amazing cover crops for your garden that act as a green manure or living mulch while adding nutrients to the garden soil.
What Are Cover Crops
Cover crops are a fall or winter crop depending on your gardening zone planted in your raised bed or garden during “down time” or in between vegetable or flower crops.
Why Are Cover Crops Grown
Cover crops or green manure also called living mulch are grown to help add nutrients back to the garden soil. Most cover crops are grown for nitrogen and the nutrient dense plant matter they provide to the soil bio-web.
Home Garden Cover Crops
As a backyard gardener, urban homesteader it is real easy to plant a cover crop in your garden this year and save yourself all the heavy lifting. Cover crops essentially add all the nutrients and plant matter compost layering does but in a living layer.
Cover Crops For Backyard Gardens
Adding a cover crop to your backyard garden is a great way to add nutrients to the soil. And cover crops help prevent weed growth. Instead of leaving your garden beds empty during the season change cover crops cover the soil preventing weed growth.
Cover Crops For Raised Bed Gardens
Raised bed gardens are great. They have minimal weeds and they bring your garden beds to an easy to manage height. Adding a cover crop to a raised bed garden is a great way to increase the nutrients in the soil after you have “put the beds to sleep” for the fall and winter.
Cover Crops For Urban Homesteads
Cover crops are perfect for urban homesteads looking to add nutrients to large areas of gardens or even small garden beds. Broad casting clover seeds into the garden will help feed the soil and the bees which adds to the function and nutrition of the garden.
Types Of Cover Crops
Cover crops will vary depending on growing zone and area. We have chosen seven of the the most popular and versatile cover crops that can be used in most growing zones. If you have any questions check with your local garden store to ensure you are getting the right cover crop for your area.
Clover is a super simple cover crop and one that helps feed the good insects and the bees. Crimson clover is really pretty with its red flowers. Clover seeds are best broadcasted over an area, no rows needed.
Rye grass is a great cover crop for the base of trees or in an orchard or field. It is also great for erosion coverage and it is shade tolerant.
Beans of any kind are great for adding nitrogen to the soil while producing food you can eat. Fava beans or broad beans are a cool temperature crop which will grow well all the way till frost. This is the cover crop we are using this year in our raised beds. We should get one crop of fava beans to eat and store before the first frost which is great.
Buckwheat is a fast growing cover crop that will grow and flower in just over a month feeding both your garden and the local bee population.
Alfalfa is a great nitrogen fixer cover crop. Us the chop and drop method to help add green mulch to your garden and increase the compost soil amounts during the winter.
Mustard is a cool season cover crop with long tap roots to add nutrient denseness to your soil. It is also know for adding large amounts of green manure to the soil.
If you are looking for an edible cover crop for your garden salad greens are a great choice. You may get several harvests of baby greens before the first frost. The delicate leaves and roots of salad greens will start to compost over the winter adding nutrients to your soil.
When To Plant Cover Crops
Cover crops are usually planted in the fall after the last of the harvest. This way the crops have time to grow during the autumn and the beginning of winter. Some crops will over winter and others will start composting during the frost and snow. This creates a living mulch or green manure for your garden.
Winter Cover Crop For Vegetable Garden
Adding a winter or fall cover crop to your vegetable garden is a great economical fertilizer choice. Most seed packages for cover crops range from $3-$10 depending on the bag size. A cover crop will also help with weed control in the vegetable garden.
Cover Crop Supplies
How To Plant Cover Crops
Cover crops are planted just like vegetable crops. Some are row seeded other types are broadcast seeded. Follow the directions on the seed packages you choose.
What To Do With Cover Crop In Spring
When you are ready to plant your garden in the spring cut the cover crops to soil level and drop the “greens” on the soil as mulch to feed the garden. As you plant your seeds in rows the cover crops will start to be worked into the soil breaking down/composting and feeding the soil, the plant starts and the soil bio-web.
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