Cover Crops To Recharge Your Soil This Winter!


[Music] Cover crops, or green manures, are a great
way to protect soil that would otherwise lie bare over winter. Dig them in and they’ll also help to
build up your soil’s organic content, which is great news for
the vegetables that follow. Late summer is the perfect time to sow a
cover crop for winter, and in this video we’ll show you exactly how it’s done. Cover crops are plants grown to protect or improve
the ground for future crops. Keeping soil covered over winter
protects it from erosion, and helps support all the
beneficial life associated with it. It also gives weeds less opportunity to
establish, meaning cleaner beds for sowing and planting in spring. Dig the cover crop into the ground
at the end of winter, and it will rot down to add valuable organic matter,
helping to feed the plants that follow. Cover crops with
deep or fibrous roots such as cereal rye help to improve soil structure by
breaking it up. Others, like mustard, grow very fast to
produce lots of lush foliage that can be incorporated into the soil after just a
few months to boost its organic content. Mustard is a particularly good cover
crop for clay soil, where it can be dug in before the winter so frosts have a
chance to break up the soil. Prolific salads such as mache or corn salad may
also be grown this way. Some cover crops directly add nutrients to the soil by
fixing nitrogen at their roots. Examples include winter field beans and
peas, clover and vetch. These are all types of legume, and are a great choice for sowing before
nitrogen-hungry brassicas such as cabbage. Phacelia can be
sown in late summer in milder areas, or wait until spring if winters are cold
where you are. Phacelia is very good at suppressing weeds, and will improve your soil’s structure. The flowers are stunning and a major draw for bees and hoverflies, so consider leaving a small patch to flower to attract them. Buckwheat is another good example,
offering numerous benefits for weed suppression, soil enrichment, and as a source of nectar
for beneficial insects in spring. Check the planting times in our Garden Planner
to pick the right cover crop sowing time for your area. To sow a cover crop, start by roughly
digging the ground over. Remove all weeds, especially perennial ones. Tamp down the soil with the back of a rake, then scatter (or broadcast) your seeds
evenly across the soil surface. Don’t sow them too thickly. Rake the seeds into the soil,
tamp down with the back of your rake, then water the ground if it’s dry. The chunky seeds of winter field beans may also be sown in rows. Use a spade or hoe
to dig out trenches about 2in (5cm) deep. Space the trenches 8in (20cm) apart. Now sow the seeds so there are about 4in (10cm) apart,
then fill in the trenches to cover them. In most cases it’s best to dig your cover crop into the soil before it begins to flower, perhaps leaving a few for early beneficial insects. At this stage the stems will still be soft, making them
easier to cut up and dig in, and quicker to rot down. Incorporate the foliage into the soil, or simply cut it off and leave it on the surface
as a mulch for the worms to dig in for you. Cover it over with cardboard
if you’re concerned about weeds springing up. Cover crops should be dug in
at least one month before sowing or planting so they have enough time to
begin decomposing. Autumn-sown cover crops are the best way to keep your
soil in good health over winter, and next season’s vegetables – well, they’ll be
all the happier for it! Now if you’ve used a cover crop before,
please tell us in the comments section below which one you used and how you got
on with it. And if you found this video useful, don’t forget to subscribe for lots more gardening videos like this. I’ll catch you next time. [Music]

35 thoughts on “Cover Crops To Recharge Your Soil This Winter!

  1. you forgot to mention, that mustards are of the brassica family and need consideration in crop rotation! also: buckwheat ripens a lot of seeds while stile in bloom, there's some truth in the saying "once buckwheat in your garden, always buckwheat in your garden!" as these seeds tend to turn up again year after year. it's not always good to let covercrops freeze of, sometimes there is a right moment to cut them of! if your winters aren't cold enough dealing with resprouting cerealplants can be a pain, especially if you're tuned in on no dig.

  2. I have planted winter oats  for a few years and like it because it is killed by winter frost and then becomes a mulch as well as organic matter for the soil

  3. I like to cut and drop cover crops rather than dig them in. Keeps the roots intact and doesn't disturb the microbes. I plant my main crops straight into the cover crop where the roots can hook up with each other, the roots left over from the cover crops break down and share their nutrients with the main crop. I try to use a companion cropping method and also leave strips of cover crop for beneficial insects. Building up healthy soil reduces the need for crop rotation.

  4. As a "soil builder" I enjoy using "cat grass" . Buckwheat is definitely a favorite of mine drought tolerant, able to sow in fall and early spring , food for nectar lovers when it's scarce to find late in the season, and not to mention beautiful when grown in masses.Thanks for promoting healthy alternatives to chemical gardening!!

  5. Thank you! I was wondering how to do this since I have a large garden since this year. You just saved me a lot of googling! 🙂

  6. Perfect timing! My green manure seeds arrived this morning. I'll be growing rye, mustard and red clover for the first time.

    I have a question. Traditionally you would dig the ground over for winter so the frost kills any nasties. Would you still do this at any point when growing green manure?

  7. I think my winter crop will be dandelions… okay, couldn't resist that, lol. My garden plot is tiny, though. About 6 x 15 feet. Is it worth doing the cover crop?

  8. Just this week I planted a green manure mix that includes legumes, vetch, clover and rye grass. Plus I save some rye grass for areas that I can't plant until late in the fall because they are still producing veggies, like peppers and tomatoes. The cover crops will all die back in the winter and come back up in the early spring. Later in the spring I will cut them down, turn the soil over, and lay the cuttings down as mulch to protect the bare soil until it's time to plant my spring veggies.

  9. I use a different method to achieve fantastic results. During grass mowing season I use a bagger, place grass clippings as cover between the 3 foot wide walking rows between all my huge raised planter beds. During Fall, I rake & collect tree leaves piling them atop the grass clippings.
    This does a fine job of eliminating weed growth between the planter beds.
    Right before winter, I rake up all the dried up grass clippings & tree leaves placing them on top of the planter beds then till all of them to a 1 foot depth inside the beds where they are allowed to rot in the soil.
    2 weeks before Spring planting season, I re-till the soil to a depth of 6 inches & dress the top with 2 inches of aged sheep/goat manure which has been sitting covered for 6 months raking it into a mix with the soil & all the powdered egg shells which I have accumulated during the year grinding into a powder & saving in jars particularly for the pepper & tomato rotational beds.
    I also have 1 adult Moringa Oleifera tree now producing beans – in central Louisiana. My other 20 trees, I cut at 8 foot heights stripping the leaves to be used in salads, dehydrated for green tea & grinder to a powder then encapsulated as a supplement.
    Happy Organic Gardening from a retired international oil driller.

  10. crimson clover, winter rye, fava bean, dutch white clover. Not too keen on dutch white clover because once established, they are hard to get rid of. crimson clover doesn't make good feed for pasture but once you mow it down, no more. I don't disc my field so it becomes mulch after mowing. For winter, winter rye.

  11. I'd love a suggestion for my inherited community garden plot. Last year had great results, this year it was hard as rock and nothing will grow even though I added compost and fresh soil. What would be a good overwintering crop?

  12. Truth be told – I'm using the weeds themselves as the cover-crop – well, actually, the place I'm planning to turn into a garden is filled with goldenrod, and other thick-stemmed weeds, and I hope to use them as sort of a mulch as I mow them down.

  13. would you do the same in raised beds? My raised beds are on year 4 and noticed this is the first year my yield started to lessen by a bit. looking to recharge them now.

  14. So, how does the cover crop fit into the crop rotation schedule? For example, if I want to use my box for peas in the spring, should I use one of the grass cover crops for that box, instead of the legumes? Or doesn't it matter?

  15. I have raised beds that I cover crop in both fall and spring. Depends on the bed location and crop rotation. However, I have a rabbit tractor…lol….yes rabbit and not chicken. When the grasses get about 4-6 inches I move the raised tractor over it for the bunnies to get some fresh food. Then when they are ready to be moved to the next grass bed I have plenty of poop to turn in with the remaining grass. It has been working really well for me in both the green house and field for a few years now.

  16. I have used field beans and they grew wonderfully, about 4 foot in height. We did the chop and drop method and it seemed to help that part of the garden. They certainly suppressed weed growth. My clay soil seems quite depleted after this extremely hot summer (in Portugal) so will plant more field beans again and will try phacelia in one section.

  17. I use Mustard Greens as well as mixed with Austalian Winter Peas, Wheat and Oats.. Wildlife love them and has greatly (so it seems) improved my soil adding lots of Nitrogen and Humas.

  18. It's a late start (nearly November), but it has been so warm (New England), is it worth trying a cover for some very heavy soil? You mentioned cereal rye. Are there others good for heavy soil?

  19. I'm starting this year in my garden and I face two of the problems mentioned above, since I have (obviously) quite a lot of weeds and the soil is very heavy, clay-like soil. Can we combine several of the varieties to obtain "combined" effects?

  20. I've used oats as a cover crop for a few years now. In years past I've used winter wheat. Winter wheat goes into hibernation during the winter months and needs to be dug up in the spring about a month before planting. Oats, however, will die when the weather gets cold, so no digging in the spring. I have seen some others I will try in this video as well. The biggest problem is getting the seeds; you need to think ahead so you can send away for the seeds. I cannot find cover crops near enough to  my garden so mail order is the best choice.

  21. should I rototiller before I place in cover crop as my soil is very claylike, and hard? I use crimson clover as a clover crop BTW.

  22. 2/3rds of all Organic Matter in your soil comes from roots. That is one good reason for cover crops. The biology in your soil needs roots to feed the fungi and the rest of the biology in the soil will eat your cover when you chop and drop it at the end of the season.

  23. Good job! We included this video in our collection of the 11 best videos about cover crops: https://goodgardeningvideos.org/best-videos-cover-crops-to-improve-soil/

  24. “Dig them in”. No they won’t increase OM if you dig them in. They will if you cut them and don’t till. I used balansa and red clover as a cover crop this year with some rye mixed in. Plan is to chop the cover crop down in rows, and put a thick (three inch) layer of mulch over top the rows leaving the other ones to flower and produce next years cover seed. To plant, dig a furrow in the mulch and lay down some peat moss or potting soil or something to sow seeds in and plant. Cover with mulch when seeds are mature. The balansa didn’t take as well as the red clover becuz it’s seeds are much smaller, but those that did have much higher vigor. Both are growing very fast, and will be left for about 20 days until I plant my garden.

  25. Never rake the soil, you will dig out all old hibernating weed seeds into the surface, just apply compost on top and then spread the green manure seeds

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