Above: Crimson clover; photos by Pixabay

Harvest time is here, which means collecting all your summer fruits and vegetables from your garden. It’s also time to make decisions about what to do with your garden for the fall season.

If you spent a lot of time and labor in the heat this summer, starting all over again next year doesn’t really sound appealing. One very smart solution is to plant cover crops.

Cover crops are a great way to put your garden bed to rest for the fall and winter. They help keep those evil weeds from growing in vacant beds while adding nitrogen and organic matter to the soil. After a full season of growing veggies, your soil probably needs an extra boost for next year’s bounty of vegetables.

Pea flower

Cover Crop Suggestions

Some cover crops that grow well in Georgia are crimson clover, peas, garden rye and vetch.

  • Crimson clover is just as its name implies. It sends up shoots that eventually turn a nice crimson color.
  • Peas do double duty. They add nitrogen to the soil and you get to eat the fresh, tasty peas.
  • Garden rye is not to be confused with rye grass. What you’re looking to plant as a cover crop is cereal grain rye.
  • Vetch is a pretty, green, low-growing vine, but some gardeners consider it to be an invasive plant.

Once early spring rolls around, it will be time to dig out your cover crops and prepare your vegetable beds for spring planting. You’ll want to till your cover crops into the garden beds. That way, as the cover crops break down, they will release nitrogen into the soil.

After a month or so, you’ll be ready to start planting your spring vegetable garden. The cover crops will be gone and you’ll have organic matter and nitrogen in the soil, all ready to help your spring vegetables grow.

Learn more about cover crops and other gardening topics through the UGA Extension of DeKalb County Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Sarah E. Brodd

Sarah E. Brodd is a Natural Resource Agent for UGA Extension in DeKalb County.