If you are a gardener or farmer, the chances are that you have heard of cover crops whether or not you have used them. As a gardener, you may think its not important to use cover crops or you may just not understand what they are and why they are important. Grow Sustainab-LEE is supplying cover crops to our participants this year and we strongly encourage everyone to try to use them in their gardens.
There are many benefits to using cover crops. A few of those are listed by the University of Minnesota Extension website at https://extension.umn.edu/how-manage-soil-and-nutrients-home-gardens/cover-crops-and-green-manures. “Cover crops form a living mulch in gardens because they grow thickly among each other. They help reduce soil splash and erosion and keep weeds in check. Cover crops are “green manures” when a gardener turns them into the soil to provide organic matter and nutrients.” (“Cover crops and green manures in home gardens | UMN Extension”)
The USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation service lists several others at: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/ny/technical/?cid=nrcs144p2_027252.
- A cover crop slows soil loss due to rain and snow runoff.
- Cover crops increase soil organic matter, leading to improvements in soil structure, stability, and increased moisture and nutrient holding ability for plant growth.
- Used “as a “trap crop,” a cover crop will store nutrients from manure, mineralized organic nitrogen or underutilized fertilizer until the following years’ crop can utilize them, reducing nutrient runoff and leaching.”
- By fixing nitrogen, gardeners will have to apply less fertilizer, thereby reducing the cost of growing a garden.
- Cover crops can reduce compacted soil. The deep tap roots of cover crops, like the Daikon Radish, can help to penetrate and loosen soil.
- A cover crop supplies a natural means of suppressing pests.
- A cover crop can provide high-quality material for grazing livestock or for putting up as hay and can supply food and habitat for wildlife, beneficial insects, and pollinators.
As you can see, there are many reasons to use a cover crop in your gardens or fields. Our program is supplying Daikon radish seed and Austrian Winter Pea seeds. The Daikon Radish will help to lessen soil compaction, and the Austrian Winter Peas will add nitrogen to the soil. The seeds for cover crops can be affordable if you buy from a local supplier and the benefits far outweigh allowing your fields to lie fallow.
If you are interested in learning more about cover crops, check out the links below.
If you are interested in learning more about us or our other programs, please check out our website at https://tinyurl.com/LeeMasterGardeners.