Cedar Circle Farm grows cover crops for their benefits to the soil. They are planted in between main cash crops cycles. The seed mixture is specifically chosen to fix nutrients into the soil that the past cash crop has used or that the next crop will need. Cover crops also create a blanket of plant matter that protects soil and inhibits weed growth. Cover crops work best when working together. Common cover crops at Cedar Circle Farm are winter rye and hairy vetch, oats and peas, or yellow clover.
Increases Soil Nutrients
Cover crops provide specific nutrients, such as nitrogen, to help future crops thrive. These can be nutrients fixed by plants or excess nutrients captured from the soil. This reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers which can cause more harm than good.
The more plants covering the ground, the more photosynthesis that takes place which pulls more carbon in the atmosphere!
A properly terminated cover crop will create a natural weed-suppressing mulch on top of the soil. If used correctly, this can even replace bought in mulches or weed block materials!
Limits Soil Erosion
Bare soil is vulnerable to erosion, resulting in the loss of topsoil and biodiversity. Cover crops protect soil from erosion to preserve these precious resources.
One example of a cover crop mix that Cedar Circle Farm is currently using is oats and peas. This mix is planted after the strawberry crop is done to protect the soil and provide nutrients for the next strawberry crop. Peas fix nitrogen from the air into the soil. The oats shelter and protect the pea plants as well as the soil. Once it is time to plant the cash crop, this cover crop mixture is plowed into the soil as a green manure. Green manure is a fertilizer made up of plants that hold critical nutrients and release them into the soil. Oats and peas contain nitrogen which is then plowed into the soil to feed microbes. This is an example of where Cedar Circle may choose to till because it maximizes the nutrients put in the soil.
Yellow clover is another example of a cover crop at Cedar Circle. This member of the legume family, all of whom are nitrogen fixers, is able to convert nitrogen gas into available plant food directly into the soil, giving us 100% of the nitrogen our crops need! This is an example of farming with nature, using a plant that provides such critical nutrients and can replace bought-in nitrogen fertilizers.
Additional cover cropping resources: