Cover Crops for Spring, Summer, and Fall

| 5/31/2016 10:42:00 AM

Tags: soil health, sustainable agriculture, Aiyanna Sezak Blatt, Natalie Bogwalker, North Carolina,

The raised garden beds at Wild Abundance are built in the shape of a large leaf. The veins of the leaf pattern are walking paths and the diagonal beds are either growing edibles or cover crops. In these no-till beds, the earth is soft, the color of light roasted coffee, and the soil is easily scooped up with bare hands.

Leaf-shaped raised garden beds at Wild Abundance

“Reach in and grab a handful,” says Natalie Bogwalker, who built these beds five years ago when establishing a site for her permaculture and primitive skills school called Wild Abundance. "We don’t till in this vegetable garden because soil health is of utmost important to us. In nature soil layers are very important because different microbes live in different layers."

"When you till, you mix up all of these layers and destroy your soil structure, along with the little tunnels that worms, roots, and insects make. These tunnels, and a soil that has aerated structure, is much better at supporting life than soil that has been blended and fluffed. When fluffy soil gets wet, it is more likely to lose air pockets than soil with structure. This is how we grow strong roots, and that is how we get healthy vegetables.”

“My mother used to say, Mother Earth doesn’t like to be naked," says Bogwalker. "Over the years, I have figured out how to keep cover crops, production crops, and mulch covering the soil at all times. This seems to have a magical effect on the soil, and therefore the plants.”

Over the years, Bogwalker and the Wild Abundance team have honed in on a few go-to cover crops to plant throughout the growing seasons. These cover crops improve the health of the soil—adding nitrogen, and other nutrients and organic matter to increase the soil’s fertility — while preventing the soil from being densely compacted by heavy rains. They keep undesirable weeds out of the garden too, by out-competing them.

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