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Incorporating summer cover crops into your garden

One significant challenge for gardeners who use organic practices is to provide enough nitrogen to meet vegetable needs without over-applying phosphorus. Last year, we shared our findings that most home gardens are over-fertilized; the average garden in Minnesota has about three times the amount of phosphorus needed to grow healthy vegetables and lawns.

A great solution to this problem is to use legume cover crops to provide nitrogen. Cover crops also provide a suite of additional benefits such as pollinator food and habitat, adding organic matter to the soil, and preventing erosion. 

By the time many vegetable crops are harvested in the fall, it is too late to plant a legume cover crop, but there are two windows of opportunity to plant summer cover crops: in the early spring followed by a midsummer vegetable like broccoli or carrots, or at midsummer following a spring planted vegetable like beets, green beans or peas.

Our new video, Summer Cover Crops for Vegetable Producers, provides a short overview of

  • why a summer cover crop may be a good fit for your situation, 
  • how summer cover crops might differ in management requirements from a more standard fall cover crop, and
  • which species are best suited for summer planting in Minnesota based on growers’ goals.

This video shows how to plant and maintain cover crops in a garden:

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