Soil erosion can destroy your garden. Erosion is the process by which wind and water remove soil from an area. A typical soil is composed of topsoil and subsoil. The topsoil is typically fertile and friable whereas the subsoil is typically infertile and hard. Most plants only grow in the topsoil. The deeper the topsoil is, the better the plant grows. Water and wind can erode topsoil, leaving little to no space for plants to grow. Therefore, home gardeners should take precautionary measures to limit soil loss to erosion. This fall, consider taking these measures to limit erosion and promote soil health:
Now is the time to plant cool season cover crops! Cover crops protect the soil from erosion and adds organic matter to the soil which improves its water and nutrient storage capacity. Many also add nitrogen to the soil. Till them under a few weeks before planting. Here are some of the most popular:
It’s cheap; it adds nitrogen to the soil; it will come back up year after year as a weed and you will curse the day you planted it. I would recommend avoiding ryegrass, especially in an organic setting.
I have no personal experience with buckwheat, but it comes to me highly recommended by some Grow Appalachia gardeners. They report that it helped to control weeds the next spring as well. It adds nitrogen to the soil.
A good choice. It adds nitrogen to the soil and provides food for bees and grazing animals.
My personal favorite. It adds nitrogen to the soil, provides habitat for bees, and is a perennial. White clover may come up unexpectedly, but don’t kill it! It won’t crowd out your plants and doesn’t take up much nutrients. Even in the summer, it acts as a nitrogen fertilizer.
For more information on cover crops, click here .
To Till or Not to Till?
If you decide to plant a cover crop, you can till the soil first to ready it for planting. If you decide not to plant a cover crop, do not till until next spring. The crop residue will help protect your soil from erosion.
Once your garden is done for the year, don’t fertilize until next spring. The winter provides ample opportunities for nutrients to be removed from the soil via leaching and erosion. Early next spring, test the soil with a kit from your local extension office to determine your fertilizer needs and apply at the recommended rates shortly before planting. Save your money. Nourish your garden wisely.