Late summer is the perfect time to sow cover crops for winter. In this video, we will show you how it’s done.
Cover crops, or green manures, are a great way to protect your garden from weeds and soil erosion over the winter period.
As well as protecting your soil, cover crops can be dug into the earth before spring, improving the soil ecosystem and feeding your plants with essential nutrients.
See which cover crops are right for your garden and demonstrate how to get the best from these soil superchargers, Recharge your soil this winter!
Cover Crops To Recharge Your Soil This Winter!
The end of summer is the ideal time to sow a cover crop.
Cover crops will:
- Protect your soil from harsh winter weather
- Add valuable organic matter when dug into the ground, improving the soil for next year’s plants
- Help support all the beneficial creatures that live in the soil
- Suppress weeds, meaning cleaner beds for sowing or planting in spring.
Cover Crops for Heavy Soil
- Cereal rye has deep, fibrous roots that help to improve the structure of heavy soils by breaking up.
- Mustard is quick-growing and produces lots of foliage that can be dug into the soil before winter to help improve its structure.
- Prolific salads such as mache or corn salad may also be grown this way.
Cover Crops to Feed the Soil
Legumes such as winter field beans and peas, clover and vetch directly add nutrients to the soil by fixing nitrogen at their roots. Legumes are a great choice for sowing before nitrogen-hungry plants such as cabbages.
Cover Crops for Weed Suppression
Phacelia does a great job of suppressing weeds and improving soil structure. The flowers are attractive to bees and hoverflies, so consider allowing a small patch to flower.
Buckwheat will enrich your soil and provide nectar for beneficial insects in spring as well as suppressing weeds.
Check the planting times in our Garden Planner to discover the ideal sowing times for cover crops in your garden’s location.
How Sow a Cover Crop
Roughly dig the ground over, removing all weeds, particularly perennial ones, then gently firm down the soil with the back of a rake. Broadcast your seeds evenly across the soil surface. Rake them into the soil, tamp down with the back of your rake, then water.
You can also sow winter field beans in rows if you prefer. Prepare trenches about two inches deep, spaced eight inches apart. Plant the seeds four inches apart in the trenches, then cover them over with soil
Digging in a Cover Crop
It’s worth leaving a few cover crop plants to flower to feed early beneficial insects, but dig most of your crop into the soil before it begins to flower. At this stage the stems are still soft and will be easier to cut up and dig in, and quicker to rot down.
You can dig the stems and foliage into the soil, or simply cut them down and leave on the surface as a mulch. Lay cardboard over the top if you’re worried about weeds popping up. Dig cover crops in at least a month before sowing or planting.