Row by Row Episode 121: Replenishing the Garden with Cool Cover Crops!

5 Benefits of Using Cool Cover Crops

Why grow cool cover crops in the garden? Not only does it keep something growing year-round in the garden, but they add tons of benefits that help improve and better our soil too. The first benefit to growing cool cover crops is the nitrogen fixation which will add nutrients directly to the soil roots. Another benefit is the amazing soil building they can do by adding organic matter, scavenging nutrients, and reduces compaction. Along with building up the soils, cool cover crops will help improve erosion control and weed suppression because of the dense cover weeds aren’t able to germinate as much. Lastly, cool cover crops are ideal for controlling some of those pest pressures you may experience in your garden. When adding cool cover crops to your garden, you are breaking the pest cycles because they don’t have anything to eat on which allows you to cut out the reproductive cycle of those pests.

Best Cool Cover Crops

When it comes to the cool cover crops there are four different types that will add different benefits to your soil based on what you grow in your different garden plots. The three different clover varieties we carry are crimson, white dutch, and frosty berseem. The Crimson Clover is OMRI inoculated which means it is coated to make it easier for seeding/broadcasting in the garden. This variety is cold-tolerant that has kind of the densest biomass which will help with weed suppression. The White Dutch Clover is a new variety that we offer that is heat and drought tolerant. However, the white dutch is less ideal for pollinators which can be a disadvantage in the vegetable garden. Another new variety is the Frosty Berseem Clover which is extremely cold tolerant and is known for being one of the heaviest nitrogen fixers of the clovers.

As far as legume cool cover crops we offer the Austrian winter pea, hairy vetch, and the marvel chickpea. The Austrian Winter Pea is ideal for planting with another cover crop as a cocktail in the garden. This cover crop is another heavy nitrogen fixer variety that will have a solid ground cover and great for livestock grazing. Another great cocktail cover crop is the Hairy Vetch which is great for weed suppression and improves erosion control. The new legume variety that we offer is the Marvel Chickpea that can be harvested and ideal for making hummus on the homestead. This variety is also ideal for adding into the garden after growing heavy feeders like corn.

Brassica cover crops include varieties like broadleaf mustard, Kodiak brown mustard, African forage cabbage, impact forage collards, and tillage radish. The Broadleaf Mustard is the best cool-season cover crop for suppressing and reducing nematode populations for harmful soil fungi. Unlike the Broadleaf Mustard, the Kodiak Brown Mustard is fine to eat. The Kodiak Brown Mustard is the best biofumigant for the soil which is great for controlling bad nematodes. The next two new varieties are both forage crops which are ideal for livestock to graze on over the garden to feed the soils naturally. The African Forage Cabbage is an open-leaf cabbage that is ideal for hard soils because it’s an excellent nutrient scavenger for hard soils. The Impact Forage Collards is another cold-tolerant variety that offers heavy biomass production. Another brassica variety is the Tillage Radish which is great for hard compacted soils and for scavenging nutrients in sandy soils.

The last cool cover crop to discuss is the Winter Rye which is also very cold-tolerant and can germinate in cooler temps. The rye provides a dense mat of vegetation and roots that helps with scavenging nutrients in the soil. However, the winter rye is harder to eliminate because of the really dense vegetation that is tougher to remove from the garden soil.

Show and Tell Segment

On the show and tell segment, a viewer sent Greg and Travis some apricot habanero pepper jelly and apricot ghost pepper jelly to taste test on the show this week. We have new onion varieties to share again this week. The newest variety is the Sweet Agent Onion that is a short day type that will produce colossal flattened sweet onions. The four Vidalia approved onions that we offer is the Sweet Agent, Plethora, Savannah Sweet, and Sweet Harvest.

The long-awaited Hoss Fertilizer Injector is back in stock and better than before! This is the most ideal way to feed your vegetable garden with the right amount of irrigation and nutrients. We recommend using the fertilizer injector in order to add fertilizer directly at the plant roots where they need it most. Along with the fertilizer injector, you can add a Backflow Preventer that will prevent polluted water from entering back into your water source.

Our famous Algonquian Squash that Greg grew earlier this year is finally available on the site now. This is a Native American winter squash variety that is classified as a Cucurbita pepo. This Al squash will produce 3-5 lb fruits on semi-compact vines and only took around 100 days to maturity. The Algonquian squash is great for roasting, savory soups, or even making delicious pies.

Viewer Questions

For the Q & A segment this week, Greg and Travis answer how to repel deer and controlling pest pressures. If you are looking for a cool cover crop that will repel deer, Travis suggests maybe the Kodiak Brown Mustard would work. The best organic pest control to use in the garden is alternating between our Neem Oil, B.t., and Spinosad. In the greenhouse, Greg and Travis don’t experience any problems with insect pressure, but if they did they would just lower the dosage and treat it the same way as if it was in the garden.

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