Winter cover crops – what are they and how will they help my garden?

Coming into winter we see the roadsides and barren ground of summer burst to life with greenery. This greenery is often winter grass, although we also see many weeds and other self sown plants too! With the rains the seeds that have sat for a few seasons burst into life. Although it looks nice on the surface, these weeds will include things like Bindii and Doublegee’s that can really hurt our feet and our animals paws! If you have ever had a Doublegee in your foot, you will know just how blooming painful they are!

People and pets walking through these areas bring the seeds of these awful weeds closer to our gardens and eventually the horrid things are in our garden making themselves a nuisance! The wind blows in other seeds, birds eat weed seeds then poop into our gardens – suddenly our well tended garden becomes a haven for weeds of all kinds! Weeds compete for moisture, nutrients and sunlight, they can certainly drown out our wanted plants very quickly!

Some weeds can be eaten and are beneficial, some are perfect for the bees and birds, but many are just a pain! I usually allow my verge to grow Dandelions and such as I love to help the bees! But sometimes other areas need something extra. This is where cover crops come in!

“The use of winter cover crops, which are eventually cultivated into the soil, is an effective practice to increase the efficiency of cropping systems, resulting in the following: (1) higher levels of soil organic matter, (2) higher microbial activities, (3) a suitable substitute for chemicals such N fertilizer and herbicide, (4) stronger structure of soil, (5) higher levels of soil moisture, and (6) less production of greenhouse gases such as CO2.”

(Robertson et al., 2014 From: Abiotic and Biotic Stresses in Soybean Production, 2016

That is it in a nutshell really! They benefit the soil in so many ways and do not allow the weeds to compete! We have a few very useful cover crops in stock now!

One of them is called Nemclear, it’s a mustard plant that clears nematodes (the reason why you shouldn’t grow tomatoes in the same place year after year) from the soil and is a natural fumigator! Another is called American Upland Cress, it attracts white moths to lay eggs on it instead of on your plants! Dug in after use, it provides all the great nutrients that your garden needs! And of course, both of these can be eaten! They will cover your soil and out-compete weeds and make sure you have a great garden right the way through the year!

To buy Nemclear:

NEMCLEAR – WINTER COVER CROP – A FANTASTIC NATURAL SOIL FUMIGANT! – Wendy’s Garden (wendysgarden.com.au)

To buy American Upland Cress:

CRESS AMERICAN UPLAND A DEAD END CROP FOR WHITE MOTH BUTTERFLIES! – Wendy’s Garden (wendysgarden.com.au)

Although it’s still pretty warm, the days are becoming cooler now! Enjoy the “watering free” days of Autumn and Winter!

 

Happy growing!

Wendy XXX