Cover crops bring plenty of benefits to your garden. However, choosing the right cover crop is where most people fail at times. But worry no more fellow gardener because you have come to the right place. What you’ll find below is two of the most important cover crops that can greatly enhance your garden. Continue reading to find out.
About Cover Crops
- When we talk about cover crops, two main groups of them come into mind: Legumes and Non-Legumes. Both of them create green manure. Green manure fertilizes the soil by allowing the cover crop to live, die, and decompose where it’s planted.
- Cover crops can be applied by leaving them on top of the soil which acts as a mulch. You can choose to leave them as it is, or plow them under when they’re still green and before they seed.
- Legumes fix your soil by providing them with nitrogen, which makes them ideal as a cover crop. It also prevents erosion, add organic value, and most of all prevents weed from growing and ruin your crops. Here are some examples of legume plants:
- Austrian winter peas
- Crimson clover
- Hairy vetch
- Sweet clover
- Winter legumes must be planted in early fall, allowing it to provide N biomass production when springtime comes. Perennial and biennial legumes tend to grow quickly which makes them an ideal forage crop in between your main crops. And speaking of forage crops, once they are ready to harvest, you can use them to feed your farm animals. However, it all depends on the climate. In colder seasons, these summer crops are out of the list.
- Non-legumes are like the opposite of legume crops. Now that we know that legume crops fix nitrogen, non-legume crops, on the other hand, uses nitrogen. But their purpose is just the same. Both legume and non-legume prevents soil erosion, keep weeds away, and provide organic matter to the soil. So if I were you, I’d choose to use both legume and non-legume plants as cover crops any day.
- Buckwheat is a perfect choice when it comes to using non-legume plants as cover crops. It’s not grass, but it accomplishes the same task as a summer-annual grass would. Buckwheat makes a good forager for livestock, poultry, and insects. Not to mention, bees like to play around with buckwheat. Overall, it provides plenty of benefits just like other cover crops would.
The Truth About Non-Legume Plants
- Non-legume cover crops are high in carbon compared to legume crops, which explains why it takes longer to break down. So why do people opt on such? This is because once the process is complete, the organic matter left is greater compared to legumes which result in a richer and more fertile soil overall. Non-legume crops are also good on keeping nitrogen in and prevents weeds from breaking it apart. However, mixing both legume and non-legume crops is still the best way to give your soil the nutrients it needs.