Heather here. At our latest workshop we seeded about half our garden in oats. The other half, right now still full of fall crops, will be seeded with Austrian winter peas. Below is the handout that we created for Grow Your Own gardeners.
Cover Crop Time
Benefits of cover crops:
- Protect the soil from weather. Bare topsoil can easily be washed away by rain, wind, snow & ice, depleting organic matter in your garden.
- Cover crops add diversity to your garden, especially during the winter months and create habitats for beneficial insects
- Winter cover crops are tilled into the garden in the spring, adding valuable organic matter which improves soil tilth—health and structure.
- Legume cover crops, such as clovers and peas, add “free” symbiotically-fixed nitrogen. Nitrogen is an important fertilizer needed for healthy plant growth.
- Deep rooted cover crops, such as rye, can break up hard, compacted soil, while large leaved cover crops such as buckwheat can help reduce weed pressure.
It depends on the needs of your field or bed to determine what cover crop is “best”. For example, is weed pressure or nitrogen deficiency more of an issue? Leguminous crops add more nitrogen while grasses like oats are better at blanketing out weeds if planted thickly.
We have chosen to sow oats this fall as they will “winter kill”— meaning they will die back in the winter and be easier to till into the soil in the spring.
Notice that there are many patches in the EFIA garden that are not ready for a cover crop yet. In order to get the benefits from a grass cover crop and a leguminous cover crop, we will plant oats in bare soil areas now (September) and sow Austrian winter peas in spaces where crops have yet to be harvested later in the season (October).
The key is to distribute the seed evenly over bare soil areas. This can be done with commercial seed spreaders for large acreage or by hand for smaller gardens like ours.
When planting oats alone, not mixed in with another crop, 100lb/acre is sufficiently thick. Each garden is about 1/27 of an acre, so you would need roughly 4lb to cover your entire plot. Some of you have larger gardens and some of you are still growing other crops. Plant the oats in any blank spots you have and you can fill in the holes with Austrian Winter Peas that we will be giving out later in the season.
We tilled our ground once before seeding the cover. If you would like to borrow our tiller let us know. Otherwise, make sure your bed(s) are free of all crop residue and broad fork and hoe up the soil to loosen it up and get it ready for planting. Rake in little furrows all down the bed and scatter seed in a sweeping motion. Rake soil over the top and water in. Plant your oats as soon as possible, and certainly NO LATER THAN OCTOBER 4th. The oats need time to get growing to in order to actually cover the ground before cold temperatures set in!
|Isn’t he sweet? Volunteer Drake built shelves for us in the truck/shed. I wish we could get that hand truck out of there. It is ruining the vibe.|
That’s it that’s all.