Photos and text by Debbie Roos, Agricultural Extension Agent.
Spring Cover Crops at Harland’s Creek Farm
Farmer Judy Lessler grows a variety of vegetables, herbs, and cut flowers on her certified organic Harland’s Creek Farm. Cover crops may not bring in cash at the farmers’ market, but they bring in lots of indirect benefits to the farm. The photo above shows the cover crops crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum) and forage radish (Raphanus sativus) in full bloom. Both are cool-season cover crops that help improve the soil and improve the quality and yield of cash crops. The cover crops were planted in the fall but put on most of their above-ground growth as temperatures warm up in the spring.
This photo shows the seed pods of forage radish with crimson clover in full bloom in the background. Crimson clover is a legume that will provide slow-release nitrogen to the following cash crop. Forage radish has a deep tap root that acts as a biological drill to break up compacted soils and allow water, air, and cash crop roots to penetrate deeper. This is especially important when the soil becomes hard and dry during the summer or in times of drought.
Half of this field has been mowed in preparation for planting edamame, or vegetable soybean.
Some cover crops attract bees which serve as important pollinators of many of the farm’s crops. Above, a honey bee gathers nectar from crimson clover blooms.