What is a Cover crop?
These are usually the plants that we seed in the garden soil before planting regular plants. They generally happen to be of low cost, nature-friendly and easy to grow. The primary function of this is to improve ecosystem quality. Plant them in vacant places; they will work their way into the soil. They are the best possible way to utilize your garden space during the off-seasons. Cover cropping is the backbone of a sustainable annual cropping system.
Why Use Cover Crops?
The benefits are not only limited to the larger garden, even small gardens can also benefit from this.
- You can easily give your soil a new life just by using cover crops. A revitalized soil means better crop yields in the future. A garden with cover crops means lesser fertilizer in the years to come.
- Weed suppression and pest suppression: The crops cover the weeds and prevent their growth by blocking the precious sunlight.
- Cover crops increase soil protection by enhancing water infiltration and reduce runoff, especially during monsoon.
- Cover crops especially legumes increase the nitrogen content of the soil. It helps in increasing overall plant health and increased pest-resistance.
- The plants which have tap roots help in soil compaction.
It is very unlikely that you would get all the benefits from a single wonder plant. The key is to mix different cover crops according to you main growing plant. This will meet multiple benefits.
Cover Crop Seeds:
Cover crop seeds can be of Legumes, Non-legume broad leaves, and Grass. You can select the seeds as per your needs. Just remember, While buying seeds make sure they are not genetically modified or treated with any type of herbicide or pesticide.
Cover Crop Solutions:
Technically, “any plant” can be a cover crop if it has been planted between periods of the regular crop production. One of the easiest and most popular cover crops is grass. It can grow easily in a place where soil drainage is a problem. It is easier to grow than legumes or any other small seeded crops. The fibrous root system of the grass helps in improving soil structure. Apart from grass, there are plenty of other plants like Oats, Clover, Groundnut, Soya beans, pumpkin, etc., Having said that you should always give your local plants a priority.
Cover crop categories:
Cover crops can be categorized in few categories. Here are some of them:
Winter Cover Crops:
These are planted in late summer and they become functional in winter. Plants like clover, peas, rye, etc.,
Summer Green Manure Cover Crops:
Legumes such as soybean, cowpeas Non-legumes like millet or buckwheat are examples of this type. The basic purpose of using these types of plants is to improve the soil condition.
These are short rotation crops. Plants like white clover, red clover, alfalfa,etc., are some of the examples of this category.
Plants such as Rye is an excellent example of this. The primary purpose of this type of cover crops is to stop the leaching of nutrient from the soil.
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