Nov 122013
 

by Avis Licht

Spring Garden Made Easy

A cover crop is an area of planting that is sown for the purpose of improving the soil and keeping the ground “covered” to prevent erosion.

The right plant can:

  • Increase the  organic matter content of the soil
  • Increase the availability of nutrients
  • Improve the soil’s tilth, which is the texture of the soil
  • Reduce weeds by choking out undesirable plants
  • Reduce soil pests
  • Enhance the soil’s biological activity.

Fava beans are one of my favorite cover crops. You can sow them late in the Fall even in cold weather.

Fava beans germinate quickly and grow even faster.  You can use the tops for compost, eat the beans, and when you’re done with the plants you can leave the roots in the ground.  Fava beans  will have put more nitrogen into the soil than it takes out.  I mean, this is a plant that keeps on giving.

It’s not a good idea to  leave any areas of your garden bare in the winter. Rain will compact the soil. The ground is subject to erosion and leaching of nutrients when nothing is growing. I sowed my Fava Beans in November and 3 weeks later they were over 8 inches tall. The moral here is better late than never.

In the Spring, when you’re ready to plant your veggies, you can cut down the fava beans even if you don’t harvest the bean for eating.  It will make an excellent addition to your compost pile and leave the soil in better condition.

Once we’ve got our garden planted, we can sit back and welcome winter back again.

And while you’re relaxing around the fire, it’s time to start perusing those beautiful seed and plant catalogs for Spring and even get a leg up on your spring garden with my ebook, The Spring Garden Made Easy.

Spring Garden Made Easy

 

 

To help you get started on your Spring Garden, there’s plenty of good advice in my ebook: The Spring Garden Made Easy. It’s only $4.99. If you’ve gotten useful information from my blog,here’s a way to keep me going. Thanks for reading. Be sure to leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. I love to hear from you

Bell beans grow all winter long

Bell beans grow all winter long

The summer vegetables are gone and it's ready for fava beans as a cover crop

The summer vegetables are gone and it’s ready for fava beans as a cover crop

Dec 032012
 

by Avis Licht  

Erosion caused by overgrazing of cattle 

I’m sitting in my office, looking out the window at the pouring rain.  A huge winter storm has descended on us.  For the water we are grateful. We just need to make sure that it  doesn’t all run off  and erode our precious soil. Erosion of topsoil is one of those strangely ignored problems that can create huge problems, but can be addressed with straightforward solutions.

In their book, Topsoil and Civilization, Vernon Carter and Tom Dale, make the convincing case that our misuse of topsoil is directly related to the downfall of civilizations. It takes 500 years to form 1 inch of topsoil and with unsafe soil practices this important layer can be washed away in minutes. They write, “Civilized man was nearly always able to become master of his environment temporarily.  His chief troubles came from delusions that his temporary mastership was permanent.  He thought of himself as “master of the world” while failing to understand fully the laws of nature.”

Topsoil supports life.  Through thousands of years topsoil was formed as organic matter decayed and was deposited in layers.  For 350 million years the quality and quantity of soil and life increased. With the advent of civilized man, soil building processes was reversed in most places.

A tiny fragment of the land area on the earth represents the soil that we depend on for the world’s food supply.  This small fragment competes with all the other needs – housing, cities, schools, land fills, etc. It is up to each one of  us to take care of, protect and enhance our own topsoil.

THINGS YOU CAN DO TO PROTECT YOUR SOIL:

1. Plant to cover your soil. In vegetable gardens use cover crops in the winter where you don’t have vegetables growing.

Plants cover concrete wall

Once the plants are in you can barely see the retaining wall

2. Judicious use of wood and stone to form retaining walls can make a big difference in stopping erosion.

Stone for raised beds

Raised beds using stone for both low and tall walls

3. Create ditches and/or swales to slow and redirect water runoff.

Swale, at the top of the hill, redirects runoff, and is also covered with biodegradable fabric that has seed sown in it.

Check out these photographs of  waterfalls in my own garden after 10 inches of rain!

[portfolio_slideshow include=”2104,2109,2110″]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 302012
 

by Avis Licht

Whether you plant edible crops for the winter or not, there are a few things you can do to keep your garden healthy and protected for the winter.

Clean up under your fruit trees and mulch with compost

 

 

1. Clean out the old beds and if you have room, be sure to compost your old foliage.  There are a lot of nutrients in those plants that  came out of your ground and you can put those nutrients back into the soil. Composting is an important part of garden health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fava beans make a wonderful winter cover crop

 

 

2. Plant cover crops to protect the soil from erosion and add nutrients as well as humus to the soil.  Fava beans and bell beans can be sown even in cold, wet weather.

 

 

 

3. Sheet mulch to cover large areas to improve the soil, get rid of weeds and prepare for future planting without having to dig the soil.  Sound too good to be true? Well it really works. Here’s an article about sheet mulching in my own back yard.

 

 

 

Mulching around plants

 

4. Mulch the soil around plants. This is one of the most important things you can do in the winter to protect the soil from erosion, hold moisture, protect roots from extreme weather and add nutrient. There are many types of mulch. Leaves, straw, wood chips, compost, and manure are some of the most common and easiest to use. As with everything else in the garden, there’s always lots to learn.  Different mulches  work better in different conditions. Check out my article on best mulching practices.

 

Frost on fallen leaves

Nov 142011
 
Vicia Faba also known as Fava Bean

Fava beans make a great winter cover crop

A cover crop is an area of planting that is sown for the purpose of improving the soil and keeping the ground “covered” to prevent erosion.

The right plant can:

  • Increase the  organic matter content of the soil
  • Increase the availability of nutrients
  • Improve the soil’s tilth, which is the texture of the soil
  • Reduce weeds by choking out undesirable plants
  • Reduce soil pests
  • Enhance the soil’s biological activity.

Fava Beans are one of my favorite cover crops. You can sow them late in the Fall even in cold weather.

Fava beans germinate quickly and grow even faster.  You can use the tops for compost, eat the beans, and when you’re done with the plants you can leave the roots in the ground.  Fava beans  will have put more nitrogen into the soil than it takes out.  I mean, this is a plant that keeps on giving.

It’s not a good idea to  leave any areas of your garden bare in the winter. Rain will compact the soil. The ground is subject to erosion and leaching of nutrients when nothing is growing. I sowed my Fava Beans in November and 3 weeks later they were over 8 inches tall. The moral here is better late than never.

In the Spring, when you’re ready to plant your veggies, you can cut down the fava beans even if you don’t harvest the bean for eating.  It will make an excellent addition to your compost pile and leave the soil in better condition.

Once we’ve got our garden planted, we can sit back and welcome winter back again.

Preparing the soil for cover crops

Fava beans will go into the prepared soil

Fast growing fava beans cover quickly
Even in the cold and the shade fava beans grow quickly
Oct 032011
 
Winter crops, edible landscaping, lettuce

Lettuce planted for winter harvest (click to enlarge)

Whether you live on the East Coast , the West Coast or in between it’s time to prepare for the winter.  As the days get shorter and the nights longer, everyone needs to put their gardens to sleep.  This means different things in different parts of the country.

In the West Coast,  Southwest and South where the frosts come later (or never) you can put in vegetables now for the winter.  This week I planted lettuce, broccoli, kale, chard, carrots, beets, peas and fava beans. We get below freezing weather in the winter, but if the plants are well established by November, they can thrive just fine over the winter.

Now is the time to clean up fallen fruit, old leaves, clear out the dead plants in the vegetable garden and put everything on the compost.

compost, weeds, winter preparation, edible landscape

These weeds are headed for the compost pile.

Mulch your garden. You will protect the soil from compaction and erosion due to heavy rains,  it will keep roots of perennials from freezing and create humus as it breaks down.

In areas that you can’t grow winter vegetables, you can still  put in cover crops. Planting cover crops in the fall to cover garden beds over the winter is excellent practice—beds under a cover are protected from erosive effects of winter weather. In addition, even if we do not see any obvious growth during the dormant period, root growth continues except when the ground is frozen.

Dried flowers. winter garden, edible landscaping

Drying Zinnia flowers for wreaths

In cold climates you can plant oat, vetch, peas, rye and barley.  If they are frost killed, they still will be useful as mulch to cover the ground.

Ask Avis

CLOSE

Your question has been sent!

Ask Avis any questions about your garden.

Name *
Email *
URL (include http://)
Subject *
Question *
* Required Field

© 2011-2017 Edible Landscaping Made Easy With Avis Licht All Rights Reserved