by Dan Carney, Water Conservation Manager
According to the culinarian at the living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the Wampanoag people had a “varied and extremely good diet” and likely feasted with the Pilgrims on a variety of squashes, beans and corn at the famous Thanksgiving of 1621.
If you grow your own veggies (or want to), there is still time to plant a cover crop to enrich your garden soil for next year’s fall harvest. Cover crops, or “green manure,” include legumes and grasses that improve fertility and soil structure making it more water efficient, nutrient-rich, and naturally resistant to pests and weeds. Now is a good time to plant: Rain is on the way, the soil is still warm enough for good germination, and there is time for the seedlings to get established before a frost.
To prepare your garden for planting, simply rake the soil smooth and broadcast the seeds of your favorite cover crop following package directions. According to the U.C. Marin Master Gardeners, “Legumes are particularly valuable for Marin gardeners because they add nitrogen to the soil. Examples of legumes include fava beans, soy beans, crimson clover, red cover and hairy vetch.”
In the spring or early summer you harvest your crop by chopping it up and digging it into the soil—that’s why it’s called green manure. Timing is important: Let the cover crop mature until it flowers, but don’t let it go to seed. The idea is to give the green manure time to decompose into the soil, making it rich and sweet for planting your corn, beans and squash in 2017. There is nothing better than fresh from the garden!