Recommended cover crop

Asked September 13, 2016, 11:46 AM EDT

Friends, I have a number of raised beds that I'd like to put down for the winter soon. Two questions: is there a cover crop you would recommend that would fix nitrogen over the winter but be fairly easy to dig under in the spring without too much soil disruption? I'm trying to till less and less and reduce disruption of my soil's ecosystems. Also, I have a substantial quantity of good quality compost that I've prepared using the hot method over the summer. It tests very well. How much is optimum, in your view, to cover a bed for the winter -- an inch? Less? My inclination is to cover the bed with compost and than cover that with a bed of leaves. That make sense? Thanks so much!

Montgomery County Maryland

1 Response

Covering the raised beds with 1" to 2" of compost and then with chopped leaves would protect the soil and prevent any weed seeds from germinating through the winter.You can then plant into the mix without disturbing the soil surface.A good cover crop to plant now is spring oats, it will die when temperatures drop to the 20's but the residue will remain on the soil surface preventing winter weeds from germinating. You can also direct seed without tilling in the spring. Crimson clover is a legume that can be planted now but will have to be tilled into the soil in the spring.