Understanding Cover Crops
by Lydia George
Fall is the time of year when you transition your garden from summer vegetables to more cold hardy varieties like kale, spinach, mustard, root vegetables and so on. But sometimes winter can also be a good time to restore the nutrients to your bed that were lost during the growing season to prepare for the coming year! This is where the idea of cover cropping your beds can really come in handy.
Cover crops are hardy plant varieties that can cover your beds during the winter, and that will benefit the health of your soil during the time of year when it is hard to grow most vegetable varieties. There are many different kinds of cover crops to choose from, and many of them serve nutritional or medicinal purposes as well.
One of my favorite cover crops is clover. Red clover and white clover are both in the legume family, meaning that they will restore nitrogen to the soil due to a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen producing bacteria that live in their root systems. Red clover is also a highly medicinal plant used for combating menstrual inflammation. Clovers are also native pollinators that bees love. There are other cover crops in the legume family that will restore the health to your garden beds, including hairy vetch and snow peas (winter hardy, delicious for you and wonderful for soil health.)
You can also use turnips as a cover crop. Turnips will keep the soil covered during winter, and if you leave them to decompose then they will add rich nutrients to the soil for the future seasons, while also providing a winter food source. Mustard greens are also a vegetable that is often used for broad leaf cover cropping, and so is buckwheat. The benefit to broad leaf cover cropping is that the leaves will protect the soil and also take up space to keep less desirable weeds from growing in the garden bed. You can also turn broadleaf cover crops into the soil in early spring and let them decompose to add nutrients back into the bed.
If you have soil in your garden that is very compact, planting grass cover crop varieties can help to break up the soil and make it more porous. Cover crops like oats and rye have deep root systems that are great for this purpose. But you have to make sure to take out or turn in the grassy cover crops before they go to seed, or you will find yourself with a lot of extra weeding to do over the next growing season.
While there are many vegetable varieties you can grow over winter, planting your garden constantly with vegetables can exhaust the soil. Just like we need rest during the winter time, your garden does as well. Think of cover cropping as selfcare facemask you can give your garden to restore its health while it hibernates during the winter time. You can buy cover crop seeds in bulk at many garden and hardware stores including, SowTrue Seed, Fifth Season, Southern States, Lowes and Ace Hardware.
Thank YOU Community Partners!
Over the last month, Bountiful Cities has had so much support from our collaborators - and it's so nice to know we are all in this together! The East Fork Pottery Raffle was a huge success - raising over $2500 for our programs. The Hop Ice Cream is raising awareness about our programs and raising funds through it's new Bountiful Cities Series Ice Creams. Look out for ice cream with our figs and our sweet potatoes this fall (and read on if you want to make your own Paw Paw ice cream)! The West Asheville Garden Stroll invited us to participate this year and the flower puppet show raised all kinds of spirits! Finally Hood Huggers and Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy are supporting our solar project at the Pearson Garden.
Partnership and collaboration are the only path towards long term food security for us all, and we look forward to much more if it! If you have an idea for collaboration or a business that may want to partner with Bountiful Cities please contact Cathy@BountifulCities.org
Free Veggies and Garden Updates!
Our Pearson Garden is well on the way to getting solar power after a series of recent workdays and lots of volunteer hours. We also were able to remove a huge old dead tree in collaboration with arborist Tim Hinebaugh. We also had help from Chloe Cuturic from Asheville GreenWorks. Thank you Tim and Chloe! There is lots more work to be done, and fun to be had in the Pearson Garden. Our Wednesday garden workdays include veggie snacks in the pavilion. See below, and stay tuned for more info on that!
Pearson Garden and Nursery Garden workdays Wednesdays from 3-5pm. Located at 408 Pearson Dr. in Montford. Please click this link to sign up. Contact Alex@BountifulCities.org for more information.
Free Veggie Mondays
We give away produce donated by Mother Earth Food every Monday after 3pm at two of our partner schools:
- Lucy S Herring Elementary Peace Garden: On the Sharing Table to the right of the Cob Shed
- Hall Fletcher Elementary: Under the awning by the front entrance to the school
Students have returned to school and we are so glad to have them return to our school gardens for FEAST Classes! We are finding creative ways to explore the gardens and engage our students amidst the ongoing challenges that COVID has dealt us. Above is a photo of Lucy Herring Elementary FEAST students harvesting potatoes!
Lucy Herring Elementary School Peace Garden (formerly Vance Elementary School) in West Asheville. Workdays Thursdays 2:45 pm- 3:45 pm. Beginning August 23, the garden will again be closed to the public from 8 AM- 2:30 pm so that classes can use the garden for outdoor learning. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for questions and to RSVP.
Hall Fletcher Elementary School FEAST Garden Wednesdays 2:30-3:30pm, 60 Ridgelawn Rd. Please click this link to sign up. Contact Jacob@BountifulCities.org for more information.
Introducing Jacob gillis
We are so happy to be able to introduce one of our newest Bountiful Cities staff members. Jacob has been growing food for 7 years now and teaching gardening for 4 of those years. He loves working with kids and is excited to be helping with food sovereignty and getting back in the dirt. He is working with the FEAST program at Hall Fletcher Elementary School and Francine Delany New School for Children. He is also working with our Grass to Greens program. Welcome Jacob!!
Newest Food Pantry Installed in Deaverview!
The Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council working in collaboration with Keenan Phillips and residents of the Deaverview Community has installed the third in a series of free food pantries in the Deaverview Neighborhood. The other two pantries are located in the East End Neighborhood and Shiloh Neighborhood. For more information on donating shelf stable food or household goods for these pantries please contact Cathy@BountifulCities.org or to get involved with the food council contact Coordinator@abfoodpolicy.org
Get Your Fall Plants from Bountiful Cities Windfall Collective Nursery
Windfall Collective has a wide selection of plant starts and perennials for the fall growing season! Here's a list of what we have available, feel free to reach out to email@example.com with any orders/questions!
Several varieties of winter squash, basil, amaranth, kale, sunflowers, and mixed greens, as well as bee balm, ashwaghanda, tulsi, tumeric, yarrow, chamomile, ajuga, lettuce, rainbow chard, snapdragons, calendula, nasturtium, spinach, strawflower, blanket flower, new zealand spinach, japanese indigo, sorrel, and hyssop. We also have trees and shrubs available, including elderberry, willow, goumi berry, fig, serviceberry and paw paw.
Grass to Greens is Available!
Do you need a late summer clean up of your yard or a fresh garden plan for fall?
Call for a free consultation (828) 775-0614
September Harvest Recipe...
Would you like to contribute a seasonal recipe for our monthly newsletter? See below for details!
Paw Paw Ice Cream – makes about one quart
This recipe contributed by Cathy Cleary from The Southern Harvest Cookbook
1 cup pureed paw paw
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup half and half
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Stir well. Freeze in your ice cream freezer according to its instructions. Serve alongside pound cake, sugar cookies, or all by it’s lonesome.
Do you have delicious seasonal recipes you would like to share in our newsletter? Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org along with a photo if you have one, and information on where the recipe originated. We would especially love to feature treasured family recipes!