Photo credit: Baltimore Sun/Glenn Fawcett
Ok, you planted your early spring vegetable crop of peas, lettuces and broccoli, and then you planted your summer crop of tomatoes and peppers. When they were finishing up, you planted a fall crop of lettuces, spinach or garlic.
And, once you got your spring flower bulbs planted, you thought you were done planting for the season, didn't you?
You need to plant a cover crop.
Cover crops are especially good for vegetable gardens, which are subject to wind and rain erosion during the dormant months of winter.
Planting of cover crop - annual rye, oats or winter wheat - prevents that, and feeds the soil. The roots work the soil structure for you and, when you cut down the crop in spring, the roots remain in the ground as organic material.
The tops - greens, grasses, wheat or clover - can be mowed down and left to decay in the garden, perhaps under a fresh one-inch layer of compost. (You should be adding an inch of compost to your garden every year, anyway.)
If you cover crop dies off before spring, no need to remove it. Simply dig through the layer of desiccated material and plant your spring vegetables. The remains of the cover crop will act as both mulch and added organic material.
Check out Maryland First Lady Katie O'Malley's kitchen garden at Government House in Annapolis. Maryland Master Gardener Lisa Winters will be planting a cover crop there in the days ahead.