Idaho Falls Community Garden Association     growifcga@gmail.com

COVER CROP PREPARATION AND PLANTING

Every good gardener knows that healthy plants begin with healthy soil. Here are the basics of one technique that will contribute to a vigorous soil, rich in organic matter and teeming with microbial life.
 

1. Remove all bulky plant material from this current season. Put corn husks and sunflower stalks in designated pile to be shredded.Collect all tomato material including fruits that have dropped and put in special pile. (See Late Blight recommendations) Put any weeds without seeds in compost pile. Those with seeds should be removed from the garden site.

2. Lightly work the soil to a depth of 3 or 4” taking special care in areas that have gotten compacted (i.e. where you walk in your garden between rows). This step can be skipped if you are going to use a tiller in step 4.

3. Rake out a bit and then broadcast the cover crop seed mixture (annual rye and Austrian winter peas or hairy vetch for winter, buckwheat and peas for summer) at a rate of 1# (approximately 2 cups) per 200 sq. feet.  Be sure to stir the seed mixture around in the container before you measure out your seeds so that you get a good combination of the two kinds of seeds - the rye seed tends to sift to the bottom. You can approximate the sq. footage of your garden by stepping it off or at Rollandet using the pavers (the small ones are 12” square, the larger are 18” square).

4. Rake or very lightly till the entire seeded area to settle the seed.

5. Water gently but thoroughly. If the fall is especially dry time water regularly until sprouts have emerged. For summer cover cropping a regular watering schedule will yield the best results.

6. Sit back and let Mother Nature do her thing.  For a winter cover crop plan to turn the cover crop under in the spring about 3 weeks before you want to plant. For optimum nitrogen benefit from the peas the plants should be at half flower. In summer the buckwheat should be tilled under when the crop is 75% flowering and left to decompose or another
 

Benefits of cover different  crops:

Seed Sources

An excellent and economical source of cover crop seeds is Peaceful Valley Farm Supply.