Thursday, November 20, 2008

Red Clover Cover Crop and Green Manure

After the summer garden is gone there is still work to be done. My daughters and I went out last week to take care of some last minute raised bed winterizing. We are doing one important step now: adding organic matter. Why?  Because organic matter matters! By improving the soil you enrich it with the nutrients the plants need to be happy.  We are using a readily available supply of newspapers like we did to add material to the compost bin. We shredded them down and mixed them into the beds. They will break down over time and will help the beds maintain their moisture.

After we added the shredded newspaper we leveled the soil and sprinkled red clover seed (Trifolium pratense) over the garden. Clover is an excellent cover crop for the garden since its roots have a nitrogen fixing property that will help to add nitrogen back into the soil.  When the clover flowers we'll turn it back into the soil to use as an organic green manure then cover the beds with plastic to let them cook for the last couple of weeks before spring planting.  By covering the raised beds with plastic we should be able to kill off all the clover plants and prevent the clover from becoming a weed in the raised bed garden.  We should be able to replenish any used nitrogen in the garden and enhance our garden for next year without artificial fertilizers.  Feed the soil and you feed the plants! (More importantly:  feed the soil-feed the plants-feed the gardener!)

One thing to note: legumes may not be advisable to plant after a clover cover crop as clover is a legume and is susceptible to the same diseases. Clovers and vetches (legumes) as well as wheat, rye, and oats (grasses) are some good suggestions for winter cover crops in Tennessee. (And probably many other areas too!)

To see what others are doing in their vegetable gardens go visit Tina at In the Garden for her November Veggie Garden Update!

7 comments :

  1. Such a great idea to add shredded newspapers to your beds and compost. I'd really like to try a fall cover crop next year. I've been reading quite a bit here and there about the benefits and I would love to see if it would improve my soil.

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  2. I've never done the fall cover crop but like Amy I may try it next year. Too late for this year as the snow is already on the ground.

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  3. Clover! That's what I plant in my lawn for the bees;-)
    You know that I don't grow veggies~and I have to feed the bees!
    Gail

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  4. A great cover crop for sure! Thanks for the tips today Dave, I will be using these next fall on my winter veggie garden beds.

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  5. I have been putting shredded newspaper in the compost bin but never thought of, on the veggie garden! Wow, thanks for the tip and the Link to In the Garden as well... :)

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  6. Hi Dave, always thinking of the best way to do things, I admire that about you! :-) I have never tried it either, lacking the muscle to do much soil turning anyway. I am more of a pile it on gal, and have added the bagged black kow compost to the veggie beds. Thanks for the heads up about the legumes though, I never think about diseases, but should.

    Frances

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  7. You have a great blog, I stumbled over here from oh, I forgot. Been reading about making a butterfy garden for this spring, since I had so many butterflies this year without trying, was wondering what I would see if I tried. My eyes are crossed from reading sorry I can't remember where I was just visiting. Adding you to my blog list.

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