Benefits of growing a cover crop
There are so many benefits of growing a cover crop to your soil and your plants we've had to categorise these into the headings below:
Organic matter & soil structure
When a cover crop is cut & added to your soil this is called a 'green manure' as this is broken down by microorganisms, compounds are formed that are resistant to decomposition such as gums, waxes, and resins. These compounds and the mycelia, mucus, and slime produced by the microorganisms help bind together soil particles as granules, or aggregates.
Nitrogen production from legumes such as red clover and vetch (both included in our mix) is a key benefit of growing cover crops and green manures and will help feed your main plant.
Soil microbial activity
When green manure is incorporated into the soil it results in a rapid increase of microbial activity. The soil microbes multiply to decompose the freshly incorporated plant material. During microbial breakdown, nutrients held within the plant tissues are released and made available to the main plant.
In addition to the nitrogen from legumes, cover crops help recycle other nutrients and make these available to your plant. Nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), sulphur (S), and other nutrients are accumulated. When the green manure is incorporated as no-till mulch, these plant-essential nutrients become available as it's decomposed.
The extensive root systems of some cover crops are highly effective in loosening and aerating the soil: those in our mix are optimised for this.
This is another benefit, particularly relevant when growing outdoors, as cover crops take up space and light, thereby shading the soil and reducing the opportunity for weeds to establish themselves. The soil-loosening effect of deep-rooting green manures also reduces weed populations that thrive in compacted soils.
Soil and water conservation
The soil conservation benefits provided by a cover crop extend beyond protection of bare soil during non-crop periods. The mulch that results from a chemically or mechanically chopped cover crop in no-till plantings increases water infiltration and reduces water evaporation from the soil surface. Soil cover reduces soil crusting and subsequent surface water runoff during rainy periods.
In addition to the soil-improving benefits, cover crops can also enhance many pest-management programs, and the more diverse they are the better. Growing cover crops adds diversity to a cropping system. In stable systems, serious pest outbreaks are rare because natural controls exist to automatically bring populations back into balance. Farmers and researchers in several locations have observed and documented increased beneficial insect numbers associated with cover crops. The cover crops provide a physical location for beneficial insects to live while they search for pest insects.
Our cover crop seed mix is available from the store via using this link.