Winter Cover Crop

The first weekend of garden prep in early Spring consists of turning over the winter cover crop.   We use a cover crop as an organic way to enrich the soil.

Planting a cover crop at the end of the growing season has these benefits:

  • Cover crops prevent soil erosion through the winter from wind and storms.
  • Cover crops help to retain moisture in the soil. (Dried out soil is not good for microbes that enhance the soil)
  • Cover crops minimize weeds growing in the plot.
  • Cover crops “condition” the soil.  Their roots  will aerate the soil so it is not so packed down.
  • Cover crops can be tilled into the soil to act as “green manure” – providing nutrients to the soil.

There are many different types of cover crops. We use “The Garden Blanket” which is a combination of crimson clover and winter wheat.   Hairy Vetch is an additional legume that we add and will survive most of our winters.  The clover may or may not survive the entire winter.

So early prep should consist of turning the cover crop INTO the soil. They are not weeds, meant to be pulled, but organic matter that will quickly break down and amend the soil of nitrogen and other nutrients.

This can be done in conjunction with adding mushroom compost to the soil. The compost can be thrown right on top of the cover crop and then till or hand turn it over to kill the cover crop.

Recommendations to let this then rest before planting varies from two weeks up to 4 – 6 weeks. We use a 1″ layer. If you would be using more compost it would make sense to wait longer.

winter cover crop
This is what the cover crop looks like at the end of winter.
Prepared plot
This is the plot after the cover crop has been turned, edges of the plot weeded and mushroom compost added.