Sunday, September 19, 2010

Covering Your Assets

Don't worry...'covering your assets' is not about financial planning! 

Soil, your garden's most valuable asset, deserves your attention all year long, but particularly at this time of year.  By using cover crops you can build your soil's texture, fertility, and beneficial microbe populations as well as provide protection from weeds.  Ralph Waldo Emerson's definition of weed:  "A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered."

Hairy Vetch and Winter Rye are an awesome couple!

Rye creates a dense groundcover quickly, crowds out weeds and provides winter groundcover while the vetch begins to fix nitrogen.

Rye's dense, fibrous root mass anchors the soil preventing erosion while vetch's taproot houses soil bacteria that are able to convert nitrogen gas from the air into nitrogen that is available to plants, scavenges nutrients from deep in the soil, and carves passages in the soil for drainage.

Rye complements vetch's high nitrogen content with carbon-rich material that will add organic matter when turned under.

Rye is allelopathic, meaning it inhibits the germination of other seeds, reducing weeds.

Oats, tolerant of wet, heavy and poorly drained soils, are planted in late summer or early fall.  The oats mature before Jack Frost makes his mark on our gardens.  They die back, leaving beautifully thick straw mulch by spring.  In the spring, you can plant your crop amongst the oat straw or you can dig the residue under, wait a few weeks, and then plant your crop. 

*picture source:  google images

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