Cover Crops

The food garden today

The garden is so bare right now I am really looking forward to the flush of green that comes when the cover crops start popping up! Notice the big bare spot in the back right be hide the 3 little cloches.  On the west coast it’s about the time to plant cover crops to overwinter. The idea of growing a cover crop during the off season is to minimize soil erosion, keep weeds down and then turn under the cover crop plants in the spring to make the soil better. This year I am doing fava beans and crimson clover.  Favas as an over wintering cover are particularly appealing to me because if you leave them in the ground long enough they will produce beans to eat in the spring.  It took a couple years to figure out how to get winter favas to work for me, the first year I perfectly planted each bean exactly spaced out according the package directions covered, watered and woke up the next morning to find my garden full of crows digging up and eating every single seed! After several attempts, I had to come to terms with the crows. My new strategy is just scatter in way more favas than should possibly ever grow there,  (about one seed every 1”)  and if there are any left after the crow buffet is finished, I can thin them (about one plant per 6” inches) when things warm up in the spring.  One year I tried starting the favas as seedling and transplanting but that was just way too much work and I won’t bother doing that again.  My fall planted favas have never gotten much taller than a few inches before hard frost or snow burns them back to the ground and they have to regrow.  I didn’t really notice any notably larger production in the fall planted favas versus the spring planted favas, but a lot of sources including the seed package seem to say fall planted will give a higher yield.  As for crimson clover I have never tried it before, and I am very  curious to see what it turns out like.

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