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.

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