The Winter Cover Crop Part II: Green Manure

Day I: In which noodle was scratched and there were many distractions.

Well campers, it looks as though my little experiment in the veggie garden has moved on to phase two. My hope is that the soil has been rejuvenated by my planting back in November of buckwheat, ryegrass, clover, oats, rye grain and valley peas. Deep root plants as well as nitrogen fixers have been working hard over the past few months replenishing lost nutrients from the previous year as well as aerating the soil to make room for new roots. You can learn about how I began this process, as well as some more info on green manure, in the first part of this project found here.


Using green manure is a new practice for me. The San Diego summers get awfully hot in my neck of the woods. I’ve been trying to combat this hot dry weather with some grey water reclamation and micro irrigation systems. Now that the soil below the surface has been treated, it’s time to move on to above ground. The plan was to chop up everything and use it as a mulch to help lock in the moisture and eventually break down into a nutrient rich compost.

I’ve basically just let it grow over the last few months. And it definitely did just that. Check out this vigorous growth!

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Planting a Winter Garden: Soil Repair Time!

Late as usual

Hello dirty minded peeps! Well, as usual, I’m a bit late in my planting schedule. I was hoping to start my winter garden last month but have been swamped with other projects. This would be a poor time for most of you out there to start with the impending frost heading your way, but to folk living in SoCal it’s a moot point! This will be the first time I’ve ever tried doing a winter cover crop that wasn’t specifically just for the dinner table.

What is a Winter Cover Crop?

A winter cover crop consists of plants that are perfectly designed to repair the soil after all the leaching of nutrients that occurred during your spring and summer growing season. Not only do they add precious nitrogen to the soil, but many of the plants roots are perfect for reaching deep into the earth to break up the soil that your normal crops can’t reach. They then pull up the nutrients to make them accessible for the next spring/summer growing season. Then all you have to do is turn everything into the soil for a perfect green manure. It’s a win win situation! For more information on nitrogen fixing plants, check out my article on legumes!

Prepping the space

So the first thing I needed to do was to get the garden ready. I was getting tired of the many rows I made before and how inaccessible the whole garden was when everything was growing madly. I decided that I wanted to consolidate everything into one, easy to get around, raised bed. I had a bunch of scrap cedar planks left over from an exhibition at The San Diego Museum of Art that were used for our Piranesi exhibit as rustic wood flooring. I used some of it to build my chicken coop, a compost staging bin as well as other yard projects. One of the many perks of working at the museum is repurposed materials!

I began by pulling all the weeds out, removing the spent summer crops and raking the soil into a pile instead of the 4 rows it used to be. I had to move the micro drip irrigation in order to do all of this.


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