Image for the article titled How To Plant A 'Cover Crop' This Fall To Protect Your Garden For The Winter

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When the season changes and your summer plants are gone, your soil will ask for shelter from the coming cold. High winds, freezing temperatures, sleet, and snow can damage the ground without most of us realizing.

Instead of covering it with a tarp, however, try a natural protector that can enrich your soil even in the colder months. Here’s how to plant your cover crop to protect your soil from the harsh winter.

What is a cover crop?

The name is a simple giveaway, but it’s a crop that covers the land for protection. Research and education for sustainable agriculture (SARE) defines a cover crop as “a plant that is primarily used to slow erosion, improve soil health, improve water availability, stifle weeds, help control pests and diseases, increase biodiversity and a To bring a multitude of other advantages ”. While SARE refers to cover crops for farmers and larger arable land, planting a protective plant over your home garden is not a bad idea.

When the growing season is over, the backyard area of ​​your yard will likely be left bare, and planting a cover crop will prevent soil erosion from rain and snow and store nutrients in the soil through the winter. This method also benefits warmer climates by protecting the land from intense droughts. The USDA and the Conservation Service Report, “[o]Over time, a cover crop treatment will increase the soil organic matter, resulting in an improvement in soil structure, stability and increased moisture and nutrient holding capacity for plant growth. ”

Basically, with a catch crop, you have stronger soil for the following spring.

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What types of catch crops to plant for autumn

There is a various ground cover plants that do a lot of things. For general coverage protection, Ryegrass is a good choice. It is planted in the cool months to grow thick and strong, but dies in winter; the grass provides a protective blanket against the cold, and when the warmer months roll in, your soil is ready for planting.

Winter rye reproduces quickly and adapts to any type of soil. The plant’s extensive roots inhibit weed germination, and vegetable and berry specialist Vern Grubinger reports that the “deep roots of winter rye help prevent compaction in fields that are tilled annually”. However, these are aggressive winter plants, so plant them on ours just before the first frost of autumn. Otherwise, they could take root a little too quickly and overtake your entire yard before you want to.

Purple clover is another great option with beautiful clusters of red cone-shaped flowers. The purple clover is a nitrogen-rich legume plant that No-till farmer Reports produced “70-150 N [nitrogen] Pounds on average. ”This catch crop is perfect for suppressing weeds and attracting pollinators to your yard. However, you can easily sow seeds so be sure to mow them before they reach full bloom. The catch crop dies in colder temperatures, so these are ideal for those who live in warmer climates.

And if you really want to do soil operations on your compacted soil, use Oil radish. Its roots can break through the toughest clay and naturally aerate your soil, making it ready for future planting.

This is how you plant bottomless catch crops

the No-till is a recommended method for planting catch crops. Start by raking the area lightly to stir up the topsoil. Next, spread your seeds over the area as if you were sowing a new lawn. Old World Garden Farms suggests sprinkling half a pound to a full pound per 40 square feet. After you drop the seed, lightly rake it again to aid the germination process. Then put half an inch of straw over the seed and soil, and you’re done. The catch crop should start sprouting in seven to ten days and you are protected for the season.