Cover crops are a beneficial and often
necessary part of the seasonal garden to both protect and enhance garden
soil. Cover cropping solves the problem of leaving garden soil bare
during the winter when wind and rain and frost heaving erode top soil
and leach out nutrients. The use of cover crops creates garden soil that
is fertile with the best structure to grow healthy plants.
The Renee’s Garden Cover Crop Mix is a blend of several legumes, grass,
roots, and rapeseed. The legumes, Austrian Winter Peas and Hairy Vetch,
fix nitrogen from air into their root nodules. Winter Rye Grass has
thick roots which hold the soil to prevent erosion and takes up excess
nutrients in the soil. Purple Top Turnips and Daikon Radish have long
tap roots which loosen dense soil and gather deep nutrients and
minerals. Rapeseed takes up large amounts of nutrients that would
otherwise be leached out of the soil by the winter rains. When these
cover crop plants are incorporated back into the soil in the spring,
they break down releasing the nutrients and minerals back into the soil
and add plenty of organic matter which improves the soil structure.
Components: (Left to Right) Austrian Winter Peas, Daikon Radish,
Winter Rye, Purple Top Turnip, Rapeseed Mustard, Hairy Vetch
Sowing Your Cover Crop
1. Prepare the bed
planting bed: Remove all crop residue and break up any large
clumps in the garden bed. Rake soil over evenly.
2. Prepare the seeds
opening the canister, shake it thoroughly to evenly mix the seeds with
the rice hulls. Then open up the can, peel back the aluminum seal and
pour some of the mixture into your hand.
the seeds carefully, giving them enough space so that they do
not germinate in crowded clumps which will only stunt the growth
of the plants. The rice hulls are easy to see and a good
indicator of how far apart the seed has been sown.
scattering the seed, use a rigid rake to work the seeds down
into the soil to a depth of 1/4 inch.
Water the seeds
in thoroughly and evenly with a fine mist sprayer.
big bed of cover crop fully grown out.
Incorporating Your Cover Crop Into The Soil
This can be handled a few different
ways depending on your climate and the height of the plants.
This method works best when the cover crop will be growing for a
short time. When 5-6 inches tall, use a garden fork, shovel,
weed wacker or rototiller to turn the cover crop into the ground
to break down and enrich soil for planting. The breakdown
process takes about a month.
Method 2: When cover crop is 1 foot tall, pull out the
plants, shake off soil and then compost the plant material to
incorporate into the soil later, when it has turned into rich,
finished compost. Timing depends on how long your composting
process takes. This method works well if it is planted in small
When the cover crop reaches 1 to 1 ½ feet tall, weed whack to
chop it down. Cover the chopped material with black plastic to
hasten decomposition, then turn the nutritious residue into the
soil 2 or 3 weeks before sowing your garden crops.