Cover Crops as Green Manure Improve your Soil

On todays episode we are going to talk about Green manure or cover crops.

Even though it is nice and warm outside it is time in Zone 3 to start thinking about the fall. As such we have a great opportunity to continue to build our soil helping both the plants this year and for years to come. Our first frost typically occurs in the last september or early october. going forward in we will simply refer to them as cover crops.

when selecting cover crops you want to select species that fix nitrogen such as peas, clover or help keep weeks or disease at bay such as mustard, This practice is once of the great re-discovered pieces of old farm knowledge. cover crops serves a number of functions. It covers the soil preventing wind erosion and water loss through evaporation while fixing nitrogen by building the soils beneficial microbe populations. when the plants are killed it releases the nitrogen and provides more organic material further improving the soil and the beneficial organisms in the soil.

When selecting a good green manure crop its important to start with nitrogen fixing or preventative disease fighting plants. Nitrogen fixing plants form a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that fix atmospheric nitrogen to more bio available forms. In return the bacteria get nutrients from the plant. disease fighting plants act in a number of ways typically pushing away or simply not attracting garden pests.

You can use green manures any time of the growing season as long as you leave at least 6-8 weeks prior to killing the crop. Any shorter of a time will not allow you to get the best results. In my case I began with peas when I initially filled the beds and planted my perennials.

you can plant cover crops in open patches of your garden or in-between already established crops allowing them to do their work during and after your crop is in there. in open areas I chose to use a little bit of potting soil to cover the severely degraded mulch layers and some used coffee grounds to give a little bit of plant available nutrition but to also attract the native earth worms and my red wigglers that are living in the area. They will bring more beneficial bacteria to further enhance the soil.

In my case I have selected three varieties for my garden. I will be adding them to new garden beds around my new perennials. This should not only help my perennials but prepare the soil for next years companion crops in the same beds.

I have selected two nitrogen fixing plants and one disease fighting plant. Winter field Peas, White dutch clover and White Mustrard.

for the best results with any nitrogen fixing cover crop it is best to get an inoculate to cover the seeds in. This inoculate provides the nitrogen fixing bacteria directly where they will be needed. in my case I ordered too late in the season and was not able to get any. instead I used actively aerated compost tea containing compost and garden soil that already have these bacteria found in them. By creating the compost tea and watering in the seeds with it the bacteria should be there ready for the cover crops to sprout.

over the next 6-8 weeks i will keep an eye on these plants. when they begin to flower they will either be killed by our first few frosts or I will chop and drop them prior to going to seed.

Thank you very much for spending time with me today I appreciate it very much. I hope you have a fantastic day!

About Stephen

The Alberta Urban Garden Channel hopes to promote organic gardening that is simple, sustainable and does not have to cost a lot. We do this by investigating the Science behind gardening, methods, practices and products to make sure that you will have the best chance of successfully growing your own food at home.