Alright, winter is almost here, and what does that mean? Cover crops! Here at Boistfort Valley Farm, we try to cover crop all our fields with a healthy carpet. We exclude next season’s early crop ground so we will have an easier time preparing the soil in March and April.
So what is a cover crop?
It is any cultivated crops grown between periods of regular crops to benefit the soil. Farmers grow cover crops to prevent soil erosion, add humus to the soil, and to add available plant nutrients. Also, if done properly cover crops will diminish certain weed pressures. Common coves are winter rye, oats, fava beans, clovers, and field peas to name a few. At BVF, we use a crimson clover and winter rye mix. These two will come up 2 to 3 weeks after sown and will grow slowly all winter until the first warm days of spring show. Then the rye grows like gang busters reaching 2 and half feet until it heads while the clover reaches about a foot with a 2-3 inch bright red flower. We grow the rye for its hardiness and its ability to add organic matter to the soil once plowed down. The clover, a legume, fixes nitrogen in the soil, making it available to next season's crops. Mike also claims, more than anything, that we grow the clover for its pretty red flowers.
This season Mike was able to sow all the needed fields on time which is a difficult task to get done before the fields become too wet. Now that it is the third week of November, the rye and clover is all up and strong. So in many ways, the 2011 farming season is already in the works.