If you planted a cover crop last year… this post is for you. If you received rye seeds to plant as a cover crop, it may be time to “turn it in.” If you are growing rye for grain, however, let it continue to grow!
Question: I tried to do the right thing this fall by planting a cover crop and letting those healthy plant roots hold on tight to the soil all winter. However, I’m feeling like it’s time to let go of my attachment to this crop and make way for some new beginnings. However, I want to make sure there is fertile ground for my new start. Any suggestions?
Answer: Your instincts are correct – it is wise to have living plants cozied up in your garden soil all winter, but in the spring it’s time to move on and make some room for the new crops you want to grow. It’s time to sever your attachment to the cover crops. Literally. In early spring (February on the coast), take a close look at your cover crop and see how much it has grown. The key to reaping fertility for your future garden from a cover crop is timing. When a cover crop is young, leafy and succulent, this is the perfect time to dig it up and incorporate it into the soil. The microbes just waking up in the soil will joyously munch the juicy green leaves, and these microbes will hold onto these nutrients for your upcoming crops. This all takes a bit of time, so make sure you wait at least two weeks from the time you incorporate your cover crop, before you plant your first seeds. The more mature and fibrous your cover crop is, the longer it will take to breakdown in the soil. While it may be tough to break off your relationship with this wonderful garden companion, it will be better for everyone if you just get it over with!