Perhaps it’s cold and rainy outside and your garden looks like a giant mud puddle. Maybe you have memories of the great produce that you harvested in the summer. Well, now is the perfect time to give something back to your garden. Plant a cover crop.
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 eating Fava.
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 under the grass. The grass residue breaks down quickly adding needed organic material to improve soil structure and drainage.
Crimson Clover ~ Crimson clover also fixes nitrogen and produces lots of great humus to work back into the soil. Crimson clover is beautiful and is a great beneficial insect attractant.
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 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. They should be treated with a bacterial inoculant and then planted about 1½ inches deep. They are worth the extra work. All other cover crops are fairly easy to plant; just spread the seeds and rake a little soil over them. Your soil will appreciate it.