I am making a school garden. It has been very challenging. In the next couple of weeks I am having some good, living topsoil brought in. I would like to plant a cover crop on the beds this fall. What would you recommend that I plant for this fall?
Jim Warnken wrote: I would like to plant a cover crop on the beds this fall. What would you recommend that I plant for this fall?
Where I am, fall rye is an excellent overwinter cover crop but it requires a few tillings before it's incorporated into the soil. It prevents seeds from germinating - which is great for removing weeds, but not so good when it comes time to plant our garden.
Fava beans are my choice where tilling is difficult as it's a good nitrogen fixer and easy to chop and drop.
Winter rye is good and hardy. I plant it in the fall at the edges of my garden beds. so that when sends up it's seed stalk in the spring, my sugar-snap peas have something to grow on. Once the peas are done then I cut the rye and pea plants down and feed it to the chickens.
I also like buckwheat but that will die back as soon as you get a frost in the late fall.
Field peas might work and if you add the innoculant you can help fix some extra nitrogen for your spring crops. Peas will die of over the fall/winter and so, won't need a tilling.
For a cover crop that lasts the winter, I like hairy vetch. When it flowers in the spring, you can cut it back and then plant stuff. It grows thickly and helps suppress weeds. Also, there is a woman in Toronto who helps with school gardens and who has lots of ideas and suggestions of what to grow and why. Her site is http://kidsgrowingcity.ca
On the southwest coast and interior of british columbia I encourage teachers to plant some daylily in school gardens.. It is pretty drought tolerant for the summer months when school gardens usually are neglected and when school starts kids can harvest the golden leaves by pulling them- no cutting required. I think daylily is one of the best rope making materials around, it can be dipped in water then wrapped in a wet towel and ready to go in about 20 minutes. 2 ply rope is a great skill to teach children for hand skill development and can link into to social studies modules, arts programs or maths (physics specifically... Every action has an equal and opposite reaction is the fundimental concept of balanced 2 ply rope.) it is also useful i think to teach that gardens and the land provide humans with more then "just" our food.
Daylily around these parts is so prolific many gardeners will be ready to divide plants in the fall and donations are usually possible versus having to buy them... Dont know where you are but hope that this is helpful and good luck!
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I have had great success with phacelia - bee plant, just cut it down when you're ready to plant the next thing. Good idea to mix it with rye, vetch... mix lots of things that will still germinate when you are ready to seed. Bringing insects to your garden will make it so interesting for the kids. Make sure to seed as soon as the soil is put down.
My cheap and easy way of building soil and clearing it for planting is to plant potatoes by dropping them onto the soil, then cover each with a spadeful of compost or soil and mulch thickly with all the weeds/dead plants I can find. Pull off the mulch to treadure hunt for potatoes and the ground is lovely and ready to plant. Bonus, the decomposing plant matter attracts lots of creepy-crawlies, make sure the class have magnifying glasses and jam jard handy. In my climate, we can plant the potatoes before the easter holidays and dig them either as earlies before the summer holidays or get whoppers when school starts again in autumn.
Snacking plants are a great favourite with the kids - strawberries, peas, rasberries, anything that can be eaten straight off the plant.
Teach them to mulch, it will make your good soil better, less watering and weeding! We have slugs in spring, so we mulch like mad June-November and then let it all rot away until spring. We get grass clippings and leaves. Teaches the kids about not dropping their sweet wrappers.
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Consider oats or buckwheat as a cover crop. Both of those will die over winter leaving a layer of biomass on top of your soil acting as mulch, ready to plant into come spring. I imagine that it being a school garden, there's not tons of time to devote to it's maintenance, with the students curriculum, and the teachers schedules and lives outside of work also. Oats and buckwheat can be one way to have something growing this fall, roots spreading through the soil, a cover over winter, all of it helping prevent erosion, the dead roots providing food for soil microbial life, and it sort of "self mulches" to boot!
"Study books and observe nature; if they do not agree, throw away the books." ~ William A. Albrecht
Hi, Have you ever looked at the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program that is common throughout Australian Schools?
I think that you will find it very interesting.
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