In contrast to the crops we plant to eat, cover crops are grown for the soil rather than for human nutrition. Many farmers utilize them as a sweetener for the earth or as a cover crop to protect crops from freezing temperatures. However, they are also useful and simple in the home garden.
They not only increase the nutritional profile of your soil, but they also minimize soil loss due to erosion, enhance soil structure and tilth, avoid compaction, aid in water infiltration and retention, break up insect cycles, and suppress weeds. You don’t have to remove land from production to use cover crops in your farming system. Cover crops are often cultivated in the off-season to benefit the next cash crop.
They also decrease or eliminate the use of artificial fertilizers, which have a substantial and good influence on flora and fauna in our backyard as well as the ecosystem in general.
Here are seven of the greatest cover crops for the home garden, all of which are both efficient and all-natural.
Sudangrass is often used as a summer cover crop. It can withstand high temperatures and generate substantial quantities of organic matter when seeded at 30-50 pounds per acre (8,000-10,000 pounds per acre of dry weight). It can only sprout in warm soil, which is why it is often planted from June through August. You’ll likely want to cut it after six to eight weeks (19-30 inches tall). The woodiness will be minimized as a result of this strategy. As roots die back after mowing, soil organisms will get a burst of nutrients. Root-knot nematode and other soil-borne diseases may be suppressed when green material is clipped and promptly disked into the ground by certain kinds.
Using sudangrass or any of the other plants listed below as a biofumigant requires a thorough understanding of the specifics. However, there are some drawbacks to consider. No-till drills have a tough time cutting through or integrating large volumes of plant debris, which is great for developing soil and reducing weeds. One of the drawbacks of sudangrass is that it may create lethal quantities of hydrogen cyanide and nitrate when it is immature, drought-stricken, or in the early stages of frost. Avoid grazing during these periods.
Another summertime staple is buckwheat. In addition to reducing weeds, it also enhances soil aggregation by growing quickly. It’s best to drill the buckwheat at 45 pounds per acre (broadcast at 75 pounds). Within ten days following the start of blooming, mowing or disking the lawn is recommended (35 days). Don’t plant after applying herbicides containing atrazine, imazethapyr, halosulfuron, or fomesafen on previous crops.
One of my favorite summer cover crops is Sun Hemp, which I’ve tried to grow a few times. It is a fast-growing tropical legume known as Sun Hemp (Crotalaria juncea, which is not similar to many other hemps). It won’t be a hit in the autumn. Heat is required. The capacity to fix nitrogen and destroy soil-borne pathogens and nematodes are just a few benefits. However, the price is usually exorbitant. To seed an acre at 30-40 pounds per square foot, you’ll need to pay more than $200 for the seed. If they generate a source in the South, this might be reduced in the long run. Currently, the majority of the seed that is accessible comes from Hawaii.
I think pearl millet has a good deal of potential as a summer cover crop. It had to contend with extreme temperatures and catastrophic droughts. Wait until the soil temperature reaches 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit before planting. Ten to fifteen pounds of seed per acre drilled half an inch deep is the ideal level. Our cover crops are frequently overlooked when it comes to fertilization. However, it is suggested that you fertilize at a rate of 70% of what you would for corn.
The millet will sequester this nitrogen, which will be released for your next crop when the residue decomposes. Millet should also be mowed when it reaches two-and-a-half feet in height. A neglected lawn may grow to a height of up to 12 feet. Additionally, it can control soil-borne diseases and has a high organic content that can withstand drought. Inconvenient integration and higher seed costs are two drawbacks.
Japanese millet is a perennial grass that gets 2 to 4 feet tall. It resembles barnyard grass and may have come from there. This plant’s inflorescence is a brown to a purple panicle with 5 to 15 sessile erect stems. Most of the time, Japanese millet is grown as a late-season green forage crop. It grows quickly and may produce seeds in as short as 45 days if fair weather. Japanese millet may be sown at 25 to 30 pounds per acre from April through July. It has low performance on sandy soils.
Soybean is one of the most cost-effective summer legume cover crops (Glycine max). Two to four-foot tall, upright, bushy plants are fast to establish and may compete successfully with weeds in a given area. When cultivated as a green manure crop, late maturing cultivars tend to provide the maximum biomass and nitrogen. Some roots may reach a depth of six feet even if most are in the soil’s top eight inches. If the soybean is sufficiently established, it can endure brief periods of drought.
Almost every soil type can support soybeans, although loams are the most productive. The recommended yield per acre for soybeans used as cover crops is between 60 and 100 pounds. Some new types of Viney forage, like quail haven soybeans, are already on the market or are in the process of being made. These types have the potential to produce more biomass than traditional soybean varieties.
Arugula (Eruca sativa), sometimes known as salad rocket, is a popular salad green recognized for its bitter, sour leaves.
It’s a fantastic option for the backyard or a small space gardener since it protects beds in the winter when planted in the late summer or autumn.
Improves soil structure and aggregates, controls weeds, and offers a mild mulch for winter beds. Arugula has high biofumigation capabilities.
To sum it all together, When the summer is your prime harvesting season or your short rest before another growing season, it can be easy to marginalize anything other than cash crops in favor of the things that need your attention the most. It’s also a great opportunity to invest in the long-term health of your growing area during the summer months. Summer soil health investments like cover crops may be low-maintenance and high-value if done correctly. you can visit our six growing easiest vegetables blog.