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Cover Crop Love Affair

Last week’s rain was a much needed blessing. We’ve been working hard to irrigate the vegetable crops, but nothing beats a natural rain. More importantly, the uniform soaking of the whole farm meant we could finally start planting fall cover crops.

When a field is not in active production, wise farmers plant cover crops, such as oats, clover, or rye, rather than let the fields lie bare. Cover crops prevent soil erosion, break up compaction, provide organic matter, and improve a soil’s water holding and draining capacity. Especially important for organic farmers, cover crops prevent weed seeds from germinating.

Ten years ago, when I first encountered cover crops, I embraced them as a unique tool in the endless battle against weeds. Since then, the love affair has steadily evolved. The simple task of walking up and down the rows, tossing seed in uniform handfuls, is a peaceful reprieve from the urgency of vegetable production—it’s a job that cannot be rushed. Then, there’s the joy of watching entire fields sprout virtually overnight—what was brown one day is bright green the next. And once a cover cropped field is well established, there’s an acute sense of accomplishment. Hands down, seeding cover crop is my favorite job on the farm.

Next time you’re at the farm, I encourage you to take a walk through the fields. Even as winter approaches, the newly-sprouted oats are a reminder of spring.

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