We started using cover crop on our garden two winters ago, and have evolved our approach and process. The first year, we used a 3-way mix of rye, vetch and peas, and simply broadforked the matured greens into the soil when it was time to plant. This year we are taking a slightly different approach.
Our 5-way cover crop is TALL this year…like shoulder height (!) and beautiful and lush thanks to a long spring with epic amounts of rain. Instead of broadforking this year, we are going to try a direct plan totally no till method. First step is cutting the cover crop (I used some old hedge trimming shears…a scythe would be MUCH better!) close the ground and letting it dry out for a week or so in place. At 32 1/2 weeks pregnant this was a hard job but not impossible. Then we will plant starts directly into the soft moist soil below. No tilling, no broadforking. It “should” keep in the moisture and retain the lighter soil structure that the cover crop helps develop. Also, the fallen greens will be a natural weed barrier for the growing season.
Honestly this plan is coming 50% from farming practice research, and 50% from a lack of time. Our garden is usually a huge focus this time of year, but this year with baby around the corner and the remodel taking 100% of Matt’s time…well, we are lucky to have a few things actually get in the ground.
If this green mulching, no till method works it will really change how we work with our garden in future years. We are already loving that the areas where cover crop was planted all winter has ZERO weeds (!) and the soil is soft and dark. After breaking down all this decomposing cover crop it should just continue to get better and better…not bad for what used to be a lawn!