Monday, March 10, 2014

my inherited crop: cover crop

My future farm plot is still a sloppy wet mess, as evidenced by the fact that I almost lost my shoe while creeping out into it to take the photos for today's blog. Nonetheless, it already growing the first crop that will help ensure my farm's success. What is this crop, you ask? It's cover crop!

My inherited cover crop is a mix of vetch (a legume distantly related to peas and lentils) and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).

beautiful winter cover crop!

Cover crops serve many functions on a farm. The roots of the plants help to prevent soil erosion. The plants take up space and elbow out unwanted weeds. They also trap nutrients that would otherwise leach away during our winter rainfalls. In addition, legumes like vetch, field peas, and clover actually "fix" nitrogen in the soil. Fixing nitrogen means they grab nitrogen from the atmosphere and move it into in the soil so other plants can use it. Essentially, they're making plant food out of thin air!

Clover is another popular nitrogen-fixing cover crop.
In the spring, we'll till the cover crop into the soil, putting the nutrients back into the soil and creating more organic matter that will feed soil microbes and eventually my future crops. Another name for cover crops is "green manure," because the plants add fertility to the soil in much the same way animal manure would do.

Cover cropping is one of easiest and most exciting methods of sustainable farming. I'm sure I'll be writing more about it in future posts!

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