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Weed & Water Wednesday: Planting Cover Crops

10/26/2011 10:38:59 AM

Tags: cover crops, winter wheat, winter peas, turnips, kale, healthy garden soil, Jessica Kellner

Happy Wednesday! It's an overcast, rainy day here in northeast Kansas, and on my morning walk I was admiring the tall wheat in one of our fields and how lovely and fitting it looked amid the fall leaves, blowing on a blustery day. It got me thinking about cover crops. Most gardening experts recommend planting cover crops in your garden plots over the winter for a number of reasons: Cover crops improve your soil's fertility and texture, hold in moisture and protect soil from erosion, pests, weeds, disease. They also add winter interest to your yard and garden. Like I said, I was inspired to write this post not because of soil fertility, but because of the lovely texture and movement of tall wheat stalks blowing in the autumn wind. Plus, cover crops provide a wealth of healthy mulch material in spring when you cut them down. I just asked our two resident gardening experts (who I'm so lucky to have as a resource)—Cheryl Long, editor in chief of Mother Earth News, and Hank Will, editor-in-chief of Grit magazine—if it was too late in the season to plant cover crops and they said no. Hurray for all of us who have procrastinated (just a little) about preparing our beds for winter. They suggested planting winter wheats, winter peas, turnips or kale, but what works best for you will depend on your climate. The important things to know are that cover crops will greatly improve your soil come spring and that it's not too late to plant them! Here is a complete guide to cover crops. And here's another blog about cover crops written by Mother Earth News garden expert Barbara Pleasant. Check with your local county extension agency for information on cover crops suited to your specific locale. Happy Wednesday!

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