Photo: Judy Isacoff

NATURE’S TURN: Edibles for all seasons. Encourage diversity. Relish the unexpected.

Cover crops contribute to the diversity of life in the soil by feeding earthworms and other beneficial macro- and microorganisms.

June 1 – 15, 2020

Mount Washington — Last week, I prepared the fresh red cabbage salad, pictured below, from the last Rodynda Red Cabbage that I planted in July 2019, harvested Oct. 21, wrapped in a paper bag and stored for seven months in a refrigerator at 38 degrees. Grated carrots, included in the dish, were planted in August, mulched heavily in late November and harvested mid-March. The green salad dressing is first-of-the-season onion chives pulverized with umeboshi plum vinegar and grapeseed oil, a delicious copy of Bizen’s ume dressing.

Photo: Judy Isacoff

In the garden, cover crops of winter wheat, seeded in early September, and winter rye, seeded in late October, grew several inches of grass aboveground and a fine network of roots underground by mid-March. The organic matter produced served to moderate snowmelt and hold the ground during torrential rain. Cover crops contribute to the diversity of life in the soil by feeding earthworms and other beneficial macro- and microorganisms.

But the grass has to be killed to make way for planting the new season’s crops. My experience with occultation – covering the ground with black agricultural fabric to smother the grass – proved that, when successful, the dead grass creates a mat-like mulch in which to place transplants (see https://theberkshireedge.com/natures-turn-dont-garden-naked-and-other-late-season-highlights/). Ideally, the fabric is laid down in March or early April so that the cover crop is killed within two months. When lifting the black cover from each bed, I have been delighted to discover a garter snake curled up underneath, taking advantage of the safe, warm environment.

Photo: Judy Isacoff

I am experimenting with interplanting my new year’s cabbage and tomato seedlings in beds of crimson clover. I seeded the clover last fall to add to the diversity of cover crops, expecting it would winterkill, leaving its biomass in place. The clover survived the rather warm winter; now reaching full bloom, it adds to the beauty of the garden and augments activity by attracting pollinators. Plant crimson clover this summer in any patch of ground; sow seed until about six weeks before the first frost. Notice that I recruited Johnny Jump-ups, enthusiastic bed designers, to seed the colorful border.

Opportunity to participate

July 20 – Aug. 9, “Climate Solutions are Grown in Soil”
Northeast Organic Farming Association Summer Conference
https://nofasummerconference.org/

Resources

Cover crops for the home gardener https://theberkshireedge.com/natures-turn-dont-garden-naked-and-other-late-season-highlights/
Crimson clover
https://duckduckgo.com/?q=crimson+clover+cover+crop&t=seamonkey&ia=web
Occultation
https://duckduckgo.com/?q=occultation+soil+science&t=seamonkey&ia=web