I'm a big fan of cover crops, though I don't always use them the way others do. I use perennials and annuals, depending on the location - and rather than tilling everything under, I often chop plants down as mulch, then put them around mulch-loving perennials or the next season's crops.
In an annual setting, say you want to grow peppers in the spring. In fall, you might plant a mix of lentils, ryegrass, mustard, turnips, chickpeas, garlic, peas, fava beans, and other cool-season crops. When the weather is warm enough for peppers, harvest whatever you like of those plants, then start chopping holes into the green mess and planting your peppers. As the cool-season crops fade, they're still protecting the ground from erosion and the baking heat of the sun. Some may be adding nitrogen, and others (like mustard) are deterring pests. Some might just be good for adding humus to the soil, whereas still others are good food for the table.
|It's too cold for baby citrus trees... but not too cold for turnips, peas, ryegrass and other cool-season soil-building cover crops.|
In the warm season, as you look forward to perhaps planting cabbages or broccoli in the fall... plant cover crops such as beans, buckwheat, sunflowers, marigolds pigeon peas, etc. The more varieties, the better. I'm all about intercropping.
Right now, I've got a large patch of cool-season cover plants (see above!) going that will be converted to corn in the spring. It's not only good for your soil - it's a great use of space that might otherwise be vacant. There's no excuse not to garden year-round here!
Anyone else experimenting with cover crops? Any good suggestions I missed?