Daily Archives: March 17, 2008

favas & vetch as cover crops


Every fall we plant a new cover crop. Why plant something we can’t really eat? Because not only does it make our otherwise brown winter garden green, but it’s quite beneficial to the soil. Cover crops hold down soil from winters erroding rains, they build up nutrients in the soil, and come spring they provide plenty of material (called biomass if you want to talk like a pro) for composting.

Each year Scott tries a different combination of cover crops to bring new nutrients to our soil. This year it was fava beans and purple vetch.

What I find pretty amazing about using cover crops is that when you pull up the roots you can actually see the little balls of nitrogen that have formed on the roots. Here’s the roots of the fava beans, do you see those little balls attached to the roots?
Fava Roots
What is also amazing is the immediate action of that added nitrogen. Our fava bean patch and lettuce patch became interplanted at one end and the lettuce that was growing amidts the favas was about three times larger than the lettuce growing on it’s own. I wish I had taken a picture of it before our chickens found it and made themselves a salad lunch.

One thing new we learned this year about growing fava beans as a cover crop is that you should till the crop under before the plant has created beans because the nutrients are then brought up from the soil into the making of the beans. Previously we had waited for the beans to form so that we could eat them ourselves. This year we’ll most likely till the majority of them and eat a few of them. They are too tasty to till them all!


Our chest high favas also make for great exploring for little ones:
Chasing Chickens through Fava Beans
Here is the purple vetch
Vetch
and it’s roots
Vetch Roots
Vetch actually gives a bit more nitrogen to the soil, but it grows in a more matted form so it’s hard to do interplantings if you wanted to do those like we did (inadvertently with the lettuce).

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Filed under Cover Crops, what we've learned

Oh what a beautiful weekend


What a gorgeous weekend. The sun was out, the light spring breezes were blowing and the tulips were up. We spent the weekend working away outside at every moment we could. And now we feel it. You know how you feel that first weekend you garden in spring? How the next day you feel sore muscles in places were you didn’t know you even had muscles? Scott’s ankle is sore, my elbow is tweeked and my back muscles are reminding me of all the digging that was done yesterday.


It felt good though to have dirt under my nails again, the energy (after four solid years of being pregnant and nursing) to dig up that impossibly hard dirt in our front garden, and to get that patch of fence fixed.

Scott turned our compost pile last at the end of the day yesterday and as I predicted this morning he said, “my left arm hurts, do you think I’m going to have a heart attack?” He says each and every time after he turns that huge pile. It’s a big job, a lot of pitch fork work, but it’s worth it for how incredible it’s made our soil over the years. I’ll write more about our compost soon.




In the meantime, enjoy this beautiful weather, even if it’s snowy, rainy, or sunny because soon enough the first radishes will be ready, lettuce will be asking to be picked, and you won’t know what to do with yet another zucchini.

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Filed under Compost, Our Weekends, What's Blooming