How to take down cover crops

Did you plant cover crops in the fall? If so, this post is for you. Now is the time to get those crops into the soil so the nutrients can break down and decompose before you need to plant seeds, in 5 weeks!!

Skip ahead if you have cover crops and want to know what you need to do now.

Why plant cover crops? Cover crops are plants that are grown through the fall and winter to protect your soil and hopefully improve it for the next season. However, they can be controversial. In a backyard garden there is minimal garden space and cover crops may compromise your fall harvest. You may have to remove fall plants pre maturely in order to plant cover crop seeds. There is also a chance that the cover crops will not decompose in time to plant your spring garden. This timeline can be a challenge. I decided to try growing cover crops this year to learn something new. At a minimum, they have already helped to protect my bare soil from erosion and possible leaching of nutrients from the rains.  You can learn more about cover crops in the post, How to put your garden to bed.

dsc_0105

What to do with cover crops now:

  1. Start by chopping down the crop. Use grass shears to trim the crops down.dsc_0106
  2. Use a shovel to lift the crop out of the soil and turn it over into the soil.dsc_0109
  3. Cover with compost. I’m not sure this step is completely necessary. However, I have a compost bin that is full and it never hurts to add more nutrients to build soil. dsc_0112
  4. Finally, cover with burlap so that the crops can break down faster. The burlap allows air and water penetration but keeps it dark, enabling the ecosystem to work harder and faster to decompose the crops. I picked up free burlap coffee bags from my local coffee shop. I cut them down the edge so that they lie flat as sheets of burlap. dsc_0115

Now I hope that these crops decompose in time for planting my seeds in just 5 to 6 weeks!

Other uses for Burlap in the garden:

  • Mulching
  • Protecting the soil during the winter
  • To improve germination rates
  • Coffee bean burlap sacks can be used as planters

What do you use burlap for in the garden?

I’ll report back in a few weeks to let you know if the cover crops decomposed in time for planting my spring garden.

Advertisements

Garden design inspiration

After the technical and strategic post How to plan a garden, I think it is time to let down our hair and day dream about how your garden could look and feel. This is why gardening is so great, you have the power to create a beautiful space and environment all by planting and caring for seeds! img_4849

My friend and garden muse, Tracey aka The Fake Farmgirl, inspires me to think creatively and to move outside the lines to create a beautiful, lush garden. In my 2016 reflections, I stated that my goal in 2017 is to get more colorful and experimental. To get my juices flowing, Tracey was gracious enough to share how she thinks about garden design and planning. The best part, she doesn’t overthink it. She pairs her garden knowledge with her vision and creates a space that is brimming with life. dsc_0040

Megan: When you first started gardening, did you have a vision for how you wanted the garden to look? 

Tracey: So when we moved into our house, 4 years ago, we had these hideous Junipers that took up 80% of our back yard. My poor husband was tasked with chopping them down and when he was done we had this gaping hole in our yard…And my journey began. He built me a few raised beds and I went to town. I started to look on Pinterest every day to get inspiration and became obsessed with Potager gardens. Potager is French for kitchen garden. I found that most of these gardens have a blend of veggies, flowers, and herbs that commingle to create an aesthetically pleasing space. There is also often a use of structures to create visual appeal. I love the idea because it allows me to create a beautiful space in my garden.

Megan: What does your dream garden look like and why?

Tracey: I hate dirt. I think that a garden teeming with life is the best use of space. My dream garden is alive with ornamentals, food, flowers and structures all co habituating and creating a space that invites people in. there are also a few chickens in my dream garden lol…img_5408

Megan: How do you plan your garden? Based on what you want to eat? How you want it to look? 

Tracey: All of that. I think about the veggies first, then I try to think about companion plants. What bugs are going to attack my veggies and what can I plant nearby to try to prevent infestations or detour pests? I love Borage so I always put a ton next to squash to encourage pollinators to visit. Sage near my brussel sprouts and kale to keep cabbage moths away. I also think about where I can put structures or grow vines… I want green everywhere.

Megan: Do you draw a visual of what you want your garden to look like and then plant it? How do you time everything so that it is all blooming at the same time?

Tracey: Lol no, I should. I really just go for it.

Megan: How do you know what flowers, veggies, and herbs to pair together? Do you plant all of these in your beds or just focus on veggies?

Tracey: Everything goes in my beds, I read and take classes on companions. I focus on the veggies and what is best to plant near and away. img_5409

Megan: Do you suggest any MUST-HAVE veggies, flowers, herbs that we should plant in our garden beds? And why?

Tracey: I’m really into Pineapple Sage – I love how its red flowers pop amongst my brassicas, and it is such a hummingbird attracter! I also love Nasturtium. Be careful though, it ATTRACTS aphids so it can back fire. Plant it near tomatoes and the two will live in harmony. I’m also really into Borage, I’d try that if you haven’t, around squash. It’s a must-have. It re seeds so you will only need to plant it once. I’m also into artichokes, I like to let one bloom. I just planted leeks too, and plan to let them flower. img_1060

Just the name “Pineapple Sage” makes me feel all warm and fuzzy with excitement to grow plants. Yum! Beyond thinking about a space overflowing with vegetables, herbs, and fruit, you can also think about creating spaces in your garden where you can relax. For example, my childhood garden was built around a brick patio where my family enjoyed dinner together all summer long. There were two entrances to the garden, both trellised and covered in honeysuckle and clematis. It was dreamy. Your garden can be an outdoor extension of your home and a place of inspiration and peace. Dream big!

My 2016 garden. The plan is to add a lot more color in 2017!dsc_0040

A few months ago, Tracey also shared her insight about natural pest control in the garden, check it out.