With more and more people gardening for the first times of their lives, so many people are waging war on their soil. STOP! Don’t use that nasty chemical fertilizer. Set it down and slowly step away from the Miracle Grow. That’s it, back up nice and easy.
We can teach you how to amend your soil naturally so that you don’t have to use harsh treatments that will burn your garden or run off into your water supply. If you prepare your soil properly and in advance you will save money in the long run and grow a better, healthier, and tastier garden than fertilizers alone can provide (think of all those micronutrients you’ll be adding!).
Clovers, winter rye, peas, buckwheat. They all help to amend the dirt you’ll be growing in. Using a cover crop helps to crowd out unwanted weeds and doubles as a green manure when you work it back into the soil, thereby improving the soil composition and structure. They also play host for many beneficial insects, bacteria, and worms. Legumes like clovers, alfalfa, vetch, and peas are nitrogen fixers. Grasses like barleys, oats, and buckwheat can complement legumes. They help to add massive amounts of green manure, loosen topsoil, and help to prevent erosion.
Depending on the type of cover crop you use they can be grown between rotations, during the off seasons or as an under-planting. If you have poor soil structure cover crops are one of the best ways to go, and probably THE best if you want to be organic or vegan. They’re not a quick fix however as they require time to grow and then decompose before you can take full advantage of them. You will, however, see immediate results from under-plantings when used instead of mulch; water retention is immensely improved and that nitrogen fixing begins immediately. When used during the growing season you’ll see many more pollinators and beneficial insects to help control the nasty bugs that feed on your crops. Don’t forget those extra nutrients they’ll be sharing with your soil!
Many seed suppliers are starting to carry more and more types of cover crops. I’ve seen them available through Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Seeds of Change, and Pinetree Garden Seeds to name a few. You can also check out your local farmers’ co-op or hunters supply stores for (especially) clovers. While some of these cover crops may attract pests like deer and rabbits, I’ve found I’d rather have them nibbling on my clover than on my okra and peas. They’re going to find the food somehow and I’d rather it be something I’m not going to eat myself – consider it a trap crop of sorts.
Over the upcoming weeks I’ll discuss other ways to make amends with your soil including composts, manures, and a few quick fixes.
Do you use a cover crop?
Jennifer (aka whirliegig) can be found over at Unearthing This Life discussing her life in rural America.