It has cooled down out in the garden, but it’s not too late to give something back by planting a cover crop. Cover crops will give your soil that extra boost before you plant your spring garden.
Fava Beans ~ Fava beans accumulate large quantities of nitrogen, which is available to subsequent crops. They have deep taproots that help open up heavy, compacted soils. The leaves decompose quickly but the stems break down slower and help to loosen clay soil. You can eat the beans in spring. We also sell the broad bean, which is the favored edible variety.
Annual Ryegrass ~ Ryegrass is quick to germinate and is very vigorous. It grows well in our Bay Area clay and can tolerate wet soil. In the spring, mow or till it under. The residue breaks down quickly adding needed organic material to improve soil structure and drainage.
Crimson Clover ~ Crimson clover also fixes nitrogen (the process of making N available to the roots) and produces lots of great humus to work back into the soil. Crimson clover is beautiful and is a great beneficial insect attractant.
Annual Plowdown Mix. ~ AKA Winter Cover Crop. This is a mixture of faba (bell) beans, peas, vetch and oats. The beans, peas and vetch fix nitrogen and all help with erosion, producing a wonderful green manure.
These winter cover crops not only add nitrogen and organic material to your soil, but they also protect the soil from erosion and help control weed seed germination and growth. Organic matter will help beneficial soil organisms such as earthworms and fungi. Their by-products are in turn used by other organisms in the soil.
Fava beans take a little more work but it is worth it. They should be treated with a bacterial inoculant* and then poked-in about 1½ inches deep. The other cover crops are fairly easy to plant, just spread the seeds and rake a little soil over them. Your soil will appreciate it.
Place seed in a bucket or bowl, moisten with a small amount of water or milk, sprinkle inoculant onto seed and mix thoroughly until the seed is coated. You cannot use too much inoculant. Mix with seed when you are ready to plant and do not leave the inoculated seeds in the sun.