Oats as a cover crop

Photo of oats as  a cover crop

I'm now on year three of "no-till gardening," meaning that I am using cover crops and other techniques to keep my garden soil healthy and my beds weed-free.

This time around, I planted oats as a cover crop. The oats were planted at the end of last season's harvest and had time to grow about a foot high before the winter cold set in. When I purchased the oat seed, the catalog said they would winter kill, but I had no idea they would die out so thoroughly! All my previous cover crops survived the winter - some better than others - but as you can see in the photo, the oats did not.

And that's not a bad thing, really! The whole idea of a cover crop is that they "cover" your garden beds in the off-season, providing erosion protection against the wind and the rain, and they prevent weeds from growing when you are not minding the beds as diligently as you do in the growing season. Then, prior to Spring, you turn the cover crop into the soil, where it breaks down as organic matter vital to your next crop.

These flattened oats should blanked my soil from now until I can start working it, providing additional protection from weeds and early Spring winds. In late March or early April, I will turn these oats into the soil and start my Spring and Summer gardening activities. And then, come September, I'll be time to decide on a winter cover crop. And it may well be oats again.

Sunday, February 12, 2017 - 04:30

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