Over the years, here at Frog Hollow Farm, we have used cover crops from time to time for various reasons with varying degrees of success. 

Simply put, “cover crops” are plants grown on farms to cover the ground, as opposed to plants which are grown for food. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of plant species which are used as cover crops, and over the past 100 years or so they've all been extensively researched by universities across the nation to discover their benefits.

 

1. Prevent erosion by wind or by water
2. Add organic matter to the soil
3. Aerate the soil
4. Improve water penetration into the soil
5. Improve habitat for all types of microbes in the soil, such as bacteria, fungi, nematodes, protozoa, etc.
6. Provide habitat for native pollinators
7. Provide habitat for beneficial insects, which will then be available to perform the valuable service of counter-acting the problem insects.
8. Legumes are cover crops (like clovers) which fix nitrogen in the soil.

 

The list of benefits goes on and on. However, choosing the right mix of cover crops is a whole science unto itself, and requires careful management on the part of the farmer and his crews. And like everything in agriculture, the weather will play a powerful role in the desired outcome.

In recent years we've practiced the “laissez-faire” cover crop strategy which is the easy way - just let grow whatever grows - at Frog Hollow Farm. We call it "volunteer" cover crop. But this year, we're planning to intensify our use of cover crops because we now have access to very important resources: Dr. Gordon Franke of U. C. Berkeley and Christophe Kreis, our compost-meister.

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Comments

  • Posted by Elle on January 08, 2014

    I’ve got a micro farm plot (inside an acre) and am enjoying the blog. Here in Hawaii, we use perennial peanut in areas with permanent ground covers because it’s a nitrogen fixer and because if you use the short variety, (there’s also a taller variety), it requires no maintenance, (after an initial weeding period for a couple months while it establishes itself), like mowing. Seems maybe ideal for orchards if it will overwinter in your area.

  • Posted by Jayson "Pintxo Sauce" Valencia on January 07, 2014

    I always thought cover crops were for feeding the soil and keeping it loose. Also protecting it from the elements of winter. I learned a lot growing my little garden last year.
    I’ve been meaning to stop by and say hi. Missed Alice Waters that day.

    All the best,
    Chef Jay
    www.pintxosauce.com

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