It has been a hard year in the garden. The heat and drought left our plants looking pitiful for most of the summer. If you feel like the time has come to put the garden to bed for the season, why not plant a cover crop? Cover crops can add organic matter to the soil, reduce soil erosion, weed suppression, and help to maintain the integrity of the soil.
There are several types of green manures to choose from. They can be broken down into two categories: legume and grass. Grasses tend to be more easily established than legumes. However, legumes, such as clover and vetch, can actually add nitrogen to the soil. Below are some of the best cover crops for Kentucky gardens.
Planting a cover crop is as easy as getting your garden ready for any other plant. As soon as you get room in your garden, remove the plant debris. This will help cut down on disease in the garden next year. Rake the area smooth. Broadcast the seed according to the rates on the seed bag. Lightly rake again and water the area with your hose or sprinkler with a light mist.
In spring, till or plow the cover crop under. You should do this at least three weeks before planting in order to allow time for the organic matter to decompose. If the cover crop has gotten too tall to turn under easily, mow first. Do not allow your cover to go to seed! This will only lead to weed problems.
Submitted by Amanda Sears, Agent for Horticulture, Madison Co. Cooperative Extension Service