During winter, when the next year’s seed catalogs arrive in my mailbox, I always turn first to the pages that show the cover crops. These temporary, ground-blanketing stands of grasses and legumes protect and enrich soil. Cover crops are essential for improving soil not only on large-scale farms but in backyard gardens, too. Specifically, they can: Improve Garden Health Cover crops add organic matter to soil. And some have large, deep root systems that loosen compacted soil.
Reduce Erosion The roots and tops of cover crops protect soil from water and wind.
Increase Fertility Vetch, clover, and other legumes add nitrogen, a plant nutrient.
Encourage Beneficial Insects Cover crops nurture pest predators, such as ground beetles
To plant a winter cover crop, scatter seeds throughout the garden as soon as you harvest your last vegetables of the season, or sow them between the rows of remaining fall crops. Rake lightly to cover the seeds; then keep the ground moist to get them up and growing. The earlier you plant in fall, the more they’ll grow before winter sets in and the better they’ll do their job...
This article was written by Jeff Moyer and first appeared on Rodale's Organic Life