With frost expected this week in many areas the vegetable growing season, sadly, is coming to an end. Once the garden is cleaned up and the debris composted, one more important task remains – sowing a cover crop of Winter Rye. Cover crops are important for protecting soils from wind and water erosion. They also help to suppress winter annual broadleaf weeds, and improve soil quality by adding organic matter in the spring. Cover crops are known as “green manure”.
Rye is sown at the rate of 4-6 pounds per 1,000 square ft. of garden area and then lightly raked in to enhance germination. It continues to sprout at relatively low soil temperatures, but is best planted September through mid October. It can grow up to 2’ and will retain dark green color through the fall/winter season. In the spring top growth is tilled into the soil providing nutrients and improving soil structure. Use of a cover crop should significantly enhance the health and productivity of next year’s vegetable garden.