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Winter Gardening or Cover Crops

October 18th, 2011

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know that the last couple years I’ve been experimenting with winter gardening. Growing spinach and other hardy greens in a hoop house over the cold winter months here in NE Ohio.

I do have a few small sections of the garden planted with some greens for a late winter harvest, but this year I’m focusing more on improving the soil. I do have garlic, perennial leeks, shallots and potato onions overwintering in one area of the garden. There are also three small squares of spinach and arugula and a few kale plants in the back raised bed, along with a few leeks left here and there.

The soil here at Chiot’s Run is very lean, as a result I decided to devote part of the garden each season to growing cover crops instead of vegetables. Of course some cover crops are edible, but I want to be able to add as much organic matter to the soil as possible, so I won’t be harvesting much if any of the cover crops.

Part of the garden was planted in mustard over a month ago. Mustard will winter kill. The remainder is planted in Fall Green manure mix from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, that will survive through the winter and come up early next spring.

The areas without cover crops have been spread with a partly composted chicken manure from the local farm and covered with straw. This manure will compost down over the winter and earth worms will help work it down into the soil. Next spring I should have much better soil because of my efforts this fall. It will take many years of this to develop into a deep rich loam, but I’m a patient gardener. I do believe that gardeners really are growing soil and not plants. That should be our focus. We can’t forget that it starts with the soil, without it we would have nothing.

I just purchased the book Managing Cover Crops Profitably and I have found it to be a wonderful resource for cover crop information. I’ve only looked up a few things and I already know it will come in very handy. This winter, I hope to have time to write up a series for this blog about using cover crops in the home garden with information gleaned from this book an other sources.

Do you plant cover crops in your garden? Would you be interested in a series on cover crops here on Chiot’s Run?

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Shop through these links and I get a few cents each time. It's not much, but it allows me to buy a new cookbook or new gardening book every couple months. I appreciate your support!

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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