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Winter Cover Crops-Part 2

In the lastblog, I wrote about my decision to not plant any vegetable plants this winter season.  I instead opted to plant cover crops since it was already late in the season, and I have limited time for garden maintenance over the next few months. Plus, cover crops provide other benefits to the soil in my raised garden beds, such as increasing nutrients and organic matter, reducing the chances for erosion, minimizing compaction and improving air circulation, suffocating and suppressing weed growth, AND providing some visually appealing color in the garden throughout winter.

Cover Crop Seedlings in Garden Bed 2 - Al Alvarado

I purchased a mix of organic cover crop seeds and planted these in late-November. Once the seeds were in, we headed out on a road trip to Oregon for some play. When we returned, I was happy to find a full bed of healthy seedlings poking their little green heads out of the soil: What a beautiful sight!

The mix of organic seeds I purchased contains nine varieties of cover crops. I did a little research to better understand the growth cycle of these plants and when they would go to seed. As I noted in my lastblog, I want to avoid having the crop reseed and spread throughout my garden. I discovered that the seed mix will grow and flower simultaneously in a few months, so I can sit back and relax a bit before I even need to think about preparing for the spring season.

Cover Crop Seedlings in Garden Bed 2 - Al Alvarado

Here is a list of the plants that are included in my cover crop mix and some of the benefits they provide to the garden soil:

  • Bush Bean – Cowpeas Vigna unguiculata

Family: Fabaceae or Leguminosae (Legumes)

Also known as: black-eye pea, southern pea, niebe and crowder pea

Soil Benefits:  adds nitrogen, protects from erosion, and smothers weeds

 

  • Fenugreek Trigonella foenum-graecum

Family: Fabaceae

Also known as: alholva, bird's foot, Greek hay, Greek clover, woo lu bar

Soil Benefits:  adds nitrogen

 

  • Millet, Whole Panicum miliaceum

Family: Poaceae, and frequently referred to as the grass family 

Also known as: hulled millet, proso millet

Soil Benefits:  adds nitrogen, is pest resistant and provides some erosion protection

 

  • Lentil, Sprouting – Red Unhulled Lens culinaris

Family: Fabaceae or Leguminosae (Legumes)

Also known as: Masoor dal

Soil Benefits: adds nitrogen and its firm roots help minimize erosion and suppress weeds

 

  • Oats, Whole Avena sativa

Family: Poaceae and frequently referred to as the grass family 

Also known as: groats

Soil Benefits: suppresses weeds, provides organic matter and will absorb any excess nutrients

 

  • Radish, Sprouting Raphanus sativus

Family: Brassicaceae or Cruciferae

Soil Benefits: has long roots that break through the soil and helps subsequent crops to grow deeper roots

 

  • Brown Flax Linum usitatissimum

Family:  Linaceae

Also known as: Linseed, Flaxseed and Common Flax

Soil Benefits:  adds organic matter andactivates phosphorus

           

  • Mustard

Family:  Brassicaceae

Soil Benefits: grows deep roots that loosens up soil, prevents erosion and suppresses weeds

           

  • Turnip – Purple Top White Globe Brassica rapa subsp. rapa

Family:  Brassicaceae

Soil Benefits: Similar to mustard, grows deep roots that opens up soil – excellent for improving clay soil

 

There are many choices when it comes to cover crops.  This is just a quick outline of good ones for our local Solano County.

I am looking forward to watching them grow and knowing that they are preparing the soil for spring and summer veggie gardens in the future.

Posted on Wednesday, February 7, 2024 at 12:00 AM

Comments:

1.
Great information! I've done purple clover before, but this year I also bought a mix

Posted by Nanelle L Jones-Sullivan on February 21, 2024 at 8:42 AM

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