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What Are Cover Crops And Green Manures Used For?

About the Author























Ashleigh Smith
I'm Ashleigh Smith, a native to Northern Utah. I first gained a love of gardening with my grandmother as I helped her each summer.

I decided to make a career of it and have recently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Horticulture from Brigham Young University - Idaho. My studies have focused on plant production while I also have experience in Nursery & Garden Center Operations.

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2 comments

  • True Leaf Market Jul 11

    Jim,
    Growing anything during the hot summer months can be hard. The good thing about growing a cover crop during this time though is that you can actually prevent long-term issues like erosion, improve soil structure, and increase soil nutrients. Yes, you will need to water your cover crops during these months, however, you don’t have to feel the same devastation if these crops dry up earlier than desired. They can also be less demanding of water than other fruiting crops. The purpose of cover crops is to prevent erosion while preserving and increasing soil fertility, not to harvest a pretty crop. I would recommend planting a crop of buckwheat or sorghum, mowing it down before it goes to seed, and letting the summer heat aid decomposition. These crops are ready relatively quickly with some water. To reduce water loss apply water in the late evening and/or early morning hours. While some microbes will diminish in population during the high heat, others will flourish. You will also see more decomposition during the fall season as temperatures cool a bit. You also have the option of planting a cover crop during the fall for a boost in nutrients in time for the coming spring season with less heat stress throughout the process. Just having something over that soil throughout the summer is better than nothing. During the high summer heat exposed soils become more susceptible to wind erosion as the soil particles become lighter without moisture or root systems to hold them down.
    -Ashleigh


  • Jim Jul 6

    Ashleigh,
    My garden is divided into 3 parts. I leave one part fallow every third year and add mulch. I would like to plant a cover crop in the fallow part. However, we live in central California, where it doesn’t rain from about April to November. My understanding is that a cover crop would need to be watered in order to flourish, and I am reluctant to heavily water the fallow section of our garden because of the amount of water that we would be using during the dry season, especially now that we are in a prolonged “drought” period and we are being asked to seriously cut back on our water consumption. Do you have any suggestions?
    I assume that the soil microbes are inactive during the dry period also, so this would prevent the mulch from being integrated in the soil.
    ~ Jim


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