Dateline: 9 September 2016
I like to blog about things that interest me and new things that I'm learning about. So you're probably going to be reading more about cover cropping in the days ahead.
I have come to believe that cover cropping is the simplest, most logical solution to building good garden soil. With that in mind, I hope you have had a chance to watch the Ray Archuleta Soil Health videos I blogged about.
If you watched video #2, you heard Ray talking about agriculture's dependency on the industrial grid, and how foolish that is. Building soil health and fertility by simply using cover crops deliberately and intelligently is, I'm persuaded, the key strategy that serious gardeners need to develop and pass on to future generations. I find it incredibly exciting.
Not a single raised bed in my garden will be bare (or covered with an occultation cover) this winter. I'm currently planting more oats, along with field peas, mustard, and a little of Johnny's Fall Green Manure Cover Crop Mix.
Yesterday afternoon, I cut a bed of blossoming buckwheat off one garden bed, and immediately planted rows of oats between the buckwheat stubble. No disturbance of the soil... except to slice a furrow for the seed with the edge of my Whizbang pocket cultivator. This cover cropping just feels so right.
All of which brings me to this matter of definitions...
I always thought green manures and cover crops were one and the same. In fact, I recently titled an essay here about planting oats in my garden as Green Manuring. Well that was an improper use of the word!
A green manure is a crop you plant and then till into the soil in order to benefit the soil.
A cover crop is a crop you plant and do NOT till into the soil in order to benefit the soil. You either harvest the top growth off and leave the roots, or, more commonly, kill the top growth, leave it on the soil as a protective mulch, and plant into the mulch.
I have no intention of tilling the oat growth in my garden into the soil. I'll either let it winter kill, or cut it low and leave it on top of the bed for the winter. Then plant my garden into the mulch next spring.
Here's a link to some informational resources on cover cropping: Cover Crops: Selection & Management.