As the growing season approaches, it’s time to protect the soil and replant. Growing certain types of cover crops can provide additional nutrients, improve tillering and prevent erosion due to adverse weather conditions. It’s simple to start late summer cover crops, which can help fix nitrogen in the soil and lessen stress. In some cases, their trailing bloomers will also provide nectar for pollinating insects.
The end of the harvest season marks the beginning of soil conservation. With our crops over, the vegetable garden must be clean and replenished for the next season. Summer cover crops starting in August take advantage of the warm weather for early germination and establishment. Beans and grains are the best choices for cover crops, each with distinct benefits.
Grains vs Legumes
Some cover crops are best sown in the spring, such as Dutch clover. It is used to cover and improve the soil before planting vegetables. Other crops require heat to grow and can be sown in August.
Grains have the ability to increase soil organic matter and increase porosity, adding carbon when soil boots are in place. Cereal yield increases biodiversity and contributes to crop rotation schedules. In areas where crops are grazed, animal dung also adds nutrients to the soil. Beans use nitrogen from the air through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that live in the soil. This in turn is returned to the soil in a process called nitrogen fixation. Nitrogen is stored in the soil for next season’s cash crops. There are cereal and legume crops in the summer, but the general rule is to plant cereal crops or vegetables followed by legumes.
Summer Grain Crops
Excess carbon emitted from decomposing cereal crops is an excellent partner for nitrogen from legume crops. Your summer cover crop of buckwheat will provide a thick, weed-resistant stand in just a few weeks. It’s a classic cover crop for short-term use. Other grains such as oats are also useful for suppressing weeds and stabilizing the soil.
Some grain crops can survive the winter and are harvested in the spring before sowing. In many places, annual ryegrass overwinters and stabilises soil during winter storms. Winter wheat, sorghum, pearl millet, and rye are also good crops to plant in late summer, which have the potential to overwinter.
Legume cover crops
Some legume crops are overwintered, such as the cover crop cochineal alfalfa. The plant will also provide beautiful red flowers that will feed pollinators late in the season. They are plowed into the soil in the spring, which increases nitrogen and tillage.
The hairy vetch is very hardy and will retain its green color through the winter. They have the potential to become a nuisance and must be planted before they bloom for control. Some leguminous crops are pollinated with roots to obtain nitrogen. A mixture of grains and legumes is available and provides variety for maximum soil benefit.