GROWING GARDEN COVER CROPS
It is late July and the only vegetable growing in my garden is about 25 feet of okra. The other 6 ½ rows are bare except for a few weeds. I need a cover crop to protect the soil from erosion and from grass and weeds. I also need green manure for sheet composting that will enrich the soil. However, the weather has been very hot and dry for several weeks.
In the past I have tried Sudan Grass and Sesame seed as trap crops for root knot nematodes. They were too tall and did not seem to help limit the nematodes. I have used Persian Clover a lot because it makes nitrogen, crowds out weeds, and only grows about 2 feet tall. The seeds are not available this summer.
So, I have ordered 4 new cover crops to try. They are: Ladino Clover, Buckwheat, Red Cowpeas, and Non Dormant Alfalfa. I will use the Alfalfa at the sides of the garden fence to control weeds and grass. The alfalfa roots are too deep and long living to use in the garden rows or middles. I will have to water the whole garden for several hours before planting anything.
Cover crops also prevent evaporation. When I was pastoring in New Salisbury, Indiana, from 1965-68, I had a garden behind the parsonage. I also was Chaplain of the Masonic Widows Home in Louisville, KY, and going to seminary. Time to garden was limited. Mr. Kim, who had chicken houses, disked chicken manure into my grassy garden area each spring. I tilled the soil into rows wide enough to get the lawn mower in between. I kept the rows clean of grass and weeds and mowed the middles. The garden grew a lot of vegetables.
July and August in Southern Indiana tend to be very dry. My neighbors’ gardens, including Mrs. Kim’s, dried up. However, my tomato plants kept right on growing and producing until the first frost. Why? The thick grassy middles held a lot of moisture which kept the tomato plants alive and healthy. I shared ripe tomatoes with church members and Mrs. Kim during those dry months.