For gardeners in the Mojave Desert, I would like to recommend some of my favorite cover crops & nitrogen fixers: lupines, native buckwheat, lotus species, loco-weed or Astragalus, mesquite, indigo bush, smoke tree, and palo verde.
In the vegetable garden area, I often use lentils as a cover crop/nitrogen fixer. Lately I discovered fenugreek, which is a clover. The seeds are used to flavor curry and other dishes. The crushed foliage smells wonderful and my chickens love it.
Farmers across the country use “cover crops” over the winter. Cover crops do several things, depending on what is planted:
- Help prevent erosion and topsoil loss. Their roots, and the plants themselves, help hold the soil in place during wind, rain and other weather events.
- Provide organic matter to the soil the following spring. These “residues” can be gently tilled into the soil in the spring during planting. The organic matter provides essential nutrients for the newly seeded vegetable crop. This addition of organic matter upon decomposition also improves soil structure. It increases the ability of soil to soak up water, and make water available to roots. Good soil structure also improves oxygen availability for plants and allows better root growth, and.
- Break up soil compaction through “bio-tilling” processes done by roots. Some cover crops, such as nitro radishes, are grown specifically for these bio-tilling effects.
Bil, a CCA agronomist…
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