Planting for the Winter and Next Growing Season

To all of our blog readers out there, thank you so much for following us for another wonderful and vegetableful (get it, like fruitful but vegetable because we grow vegetables...) growing season!  Last week was our last week of chores down in the garden before the snow flies.

The majority of this past month we've been working on clearing out the garden so that a winter cover crop could be planted.  There are many reasons why you should consider planting a cover crop before winter: (1) help protect the soil from the frigid winter as well as soil erosion in the spring, (2) replenish the soil of many nutrients and organic matter, (3) help reduce soil compaction due to annual tilling and (4) crowd out the weeds.  With all those added benefits, it's a pretty easy decision for us to work hard to get a cover crop growing before winter.

Once you decide that a cover crop is the way to go for winter prep and next season planning, the next choice you have to make is what cover crop to plant.  There are several to choose from: vetch, winter rye, soybean, clover, field peas, buckwheat, oats, etc.  They pretty much all have similar benefits.  For the SMC Organic Garden, we use winter rye.  One of the main reasons for using the winter rye is that it is one of the fastest growing grains in the fall, it's the most winter-hardy of all cereal grains and it can germinate down to temperatures as low as 33 F (although it will grow slower the colder the temps get).  This gives us more wiggle room to prep the soil in order to plant the winter rye.  It also comes up pretty early in the spring to continue growing a bit more before planting time.

Thankfully, the temperatures for most of October have been incredibly mild.  This allowed us plenty of time to pull up all the plants and Anna was able to till the entire garden on Thursday and spread out a 56 lb bag of winter rye!  We're already preparing for next season =)  So, if you haven't yet, I'd consider planting a cover crop before it gets to cold.  Your soil will really thank you come next summer!

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