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Summer Cover Crops

Summer is finally upon us in now sunny San Diego and to celebrate Seeds in the City is coming out of hibernation with a new post. Thanks for your patience!

Cover crops can be a very beneficial addition to your soil that most farmers and gardeners plant in the winter to ready the soil for spring planting. In addition to adding organic materials to the soil they can solve compaction problems as well as suppress weeds and attract beneficial insects.

In between the spring/summer and fall/winter garden you can also have a cover crop. Our soil is in definite need of a quick pick me up before the fall planting commences so I looked into a few options.

Our issues were specific, we needed a quick growing crop that could tolerate summer heat and could be tilled under in a matter of weeks. We ended up going with Buckwheat which is ready to till under right after it flowers in a mere 4-5 weeks and Soybeans. Here is a short breakdown of some options;

Buckwheat – Grows fast, smothers weeds, attracts beneficial’s and releases potassium when breaking down in the soil.
Canola (Rape) – Smothers weeds, fast growing and suppresses nematodes.
Clover – Great for attracting beneficial’s and some can be quite pretty. Downside is a lot of clover varieties require up to 1 year before they can be turned under.
Cow pea – Smothers weeds, suppresses nematodes if allowed to bloom before tilling, adds nitrogen to the soil and it’s edible!
Soybean – another edible choice that adds nitrogen and thrives in heat, till into the soil when 50% of the plants have flowered or wait to harvest the beans.

When you cover crop is ready to till under cut it to about 2 inches above the soil and let dry a couple of days. Then gently dig it into the top layer of your soil, preferably by hand.

One comment

  1. Curbstone Valley Farm says:

    Summer has been rather elusive this year. We've finally warmed up too, although yesterday's temps were a bit extreme.

    I like that buckwheat doesn't take as long before it can be turned into the soil. Although, now that I'm gardening more with California natives, I have to keep reminding myself that this buckwheat isn't the same genus as our native Eriogonum species. I think the cover-crop buckwheat is Fagopyrum.