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Q: Overwhelmed With Cover Crop Choices

Sep 10, 2009 -

PVFS Customer Question with Staff Response.


Hi, I am a bit overwhelmed with cover crops.  I have a raised bed garden that is 5-years old and I feel it is time to plant a cover crop for this soil.  Every year I put in my compost, but have never done the cover crop thing.  Can you give me any suggestions?  It is 24 sq. ft. and I have had an increase in bad bugs: cabbage worms, snails and cucumber beetles to name the predominant.  Also, my tomatoes that usually do really well were less than stellar this year.  It could be the cooler, wet weather we had this season, but I would think the fixing of nitrogen could only help.  So, please let me know what you think I should do.  Thanks so much.


Don’t be overwhelmed!  It’s true that there are a lot of choices for cover cropping, but when you narrow down the focus, it becomes more clear about how to handle it.  Sounds like you want a “green manure” crop; that is, you want to grow something with the intent to till it back into the soil.  It will fix nitrogen, stabilize the soil, encourage microorganism activity, add organic matter, etc.  Please read the Peaceful Valley literature (here) on the topic for information on planting and more.

Our most popular green manure mix is called the Soil Builder Mix. Using Inoculant will ensure that your crop produces the most amount of Nitrogen possible.  A couple of suggestions for your tomato and pest problems is to be sure to clean up the garden after the season (ie-remove leaves, debris, etc.), and be sure to rotate your crops every year.

Hope that helps and thank you for growing organically!

Corinne Says:
Oct 15th, 2014 at 9:45 pm

I’m involved in a garden that consists of 16 raised beds, 20x3” in size.  We’re thinking of putting in a cover crop in 10 of the beds and planting winter vegetables in the other 6.  Everything we grow is donated to a local dining room that feeds the homeless.  This year’s tomato crop consisted of copious amounts of foliage and not a whole lot of fruit.  The other crops consisted of various peppers, cucumbers, and zucchinis.

Can you recommend a cover crop (or crops) to energize these beds?  I’m thinking we might need something different for next year’s tomato beds because I’ve heard that too much nitrogen can cause the problems we had with them this year.

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Oct 16th, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Your tomatoes may not have enough phosphorous and potassium as well as too much nitrogen. I am hesitant to make a recommendation without knowing what your nitrogen levels are sitting at. Have you done a soil test? What type of soil did you start off with?

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