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.

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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.

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