“Cover cropping” is a term we use to describe a method of utilizing different crops as a means to add organic matter which can be broken down into food for your plants.
So let us start with how; firstly you need crops. Crops come in all shapes and sizes and offer a variety of benefits to your soil ecology. Some “fix” poor soil by drawing nitrogen from the atmosphere around them while others “mine” heavy metals from the depths of the soil, some even “scavenge” nutrients by storing them during the rest period of crop rotation and others help to balance the soils nutrient content.
Most of these crops will germinate in 7-14 days once you have planted them. Please don’t forget to water them every 2-3 days. The seeds should be planted approximately 2-3cm below the soil but can be left on top of the soil if mulch is used to cover them. Ideally this should be a thin layer of mulch so the seedlings can pop through.
Once these crops begin to sprout they will need to be watered every second day and allowed to grow until approximately 10-15cm tall, at which point you should harvest the crops by cutting them at the base of their stems or uprooting them and then layering them into the top soil, or even use them for mulch (specific varieties preferred). Here these crops will begin to breakdown forming a humic layer which will be digested by the different micro-life into plant available nutrients; the food our plants love.
Arguably one of the most useful elements to “cover cropping” is in the value of micro crops or sprouts. These young seedlings are packed full with the nutrients and energy it requires to grow strong and healthy.
This brings us to the why, and the answer is simple … because nature does it naturally. When we look around us we see that plants naturally grow and die through the seasons. They each have a purpose upon completion of which they return to the soil along with the food they provide to the ecosystem around them. If we wish to continue to use the soil we grow our food and medicine with we need to give back or there will be nothing left to take.