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Cover crops

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Yes, it's time top put those gardens to bed. But it's also a great time to build up your soil. Instead of just putting compost and manure on your garden, you can actually grow your own fertilizer. And the way to do that is to grow what we call a cover crop.

A cover crop is a plant you grow in the fall, it goes through the winter and you till it under in the spring. It adds organic matter to the soil which the soil microbes love. There are a couple of different kinds of cover crops. One is a mix of field peas, hairy vetch and oat seeds. Grow this mix in September because it's too late to sow it now.

But you can put down winter rye and winter wheat. They're really nice because they germinate in cool soils, they like poor soils, they'll grow through anything to produce a ton of organic matter.

OK, so what you want to do, is get your winter wheat or winter rye, and you'll sow about 4-6 ounces of seed per 100 square feet. Prepare the seed bed like you would for vegetables.

And then sprinkle the seed in the garden. When you're done, just rake it in a little bit, and then the next time it rains, you'll be amazed how it will pop right up. It will grow until the temperatures get down below the 40s. Then it will go dormant. Next spring, it will start growing again. Then you will till it under about a month before you plant.

By Charlie Nardozzi

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