Growing covers crops during the fall and winter months is a good way to maintain soil nutrients and fertility. In particular nitrogen is one of the most important nutrients for the garden as all plants need nitrogen. Plants require the ammonia (NH3) form of nitrogen in order to generate their essential biological components. This is where rhizobia bacteria come into play as they process nitrogen gas (N2) into useable NH3, this process is called biological nitrogen fixation. Rhizobia also happen to be the only thing that “fixes” nitrogen naturally. Soil can benefit from this when the rhizobia bacteria die and release the nitrogen into their environment, feeding the plants. Some plants can also receive this nitrogen by living in close association with the bacteria. Plants such as legumes do this by creating an environment and providing nutrients for the bacteria to live along their roots. The bacteria live in small growths on the roots called nodules, in these nodules the bacteria fix nitrogen that the plant then absorbs. This creates a beneficial relationship for both the plant and bacterium. Here are a couple images showing these nodules on legumes.
A legume plant root showing nodules attached to the roots.
Nodules from a legume cut open to show the reddish-pink color that indicates an active, healthy nodule.
Other benefits from cover crops can be building soil structure or tilth. Growing legumes and cereal grains gives the double benefit of nitrogen fixation with extensive root systems that create good soil structure or tilth. Grow at a ratio of about 80 percent legumes and 20 percent grains. Cover crops that do not fix nitrogen also have beneficial uses, plants such as calendula and mustard can protect the soil from rainfall and prevent nutrients from being leached out of the root zone of crop plants. They also simply provide organic material to the soil and increase carbon reserves. An added benefit to these cover crops over nitrogen fixing ones is that they can be planted earlier and mature faster in spring. Cover crops are an important part of gardening and maintaining or increasing healthy soil. This is especially true during the winter and fall months of gardening when soil is vulnerable to the potentially harsh climate. It is important to know which to plant based on the needs of your garden and the benefits of some cover crops over others in order to make an informed decision.
October packet reading material.
"Nitrogen Fixation by Legumes." NMSU: Nitrogen Fixation By Legumes. Ed. Robert Flynn and John Idowu. New Mexico State University, June 2015. Web. 10 Oct. 2016. This source taught me a lot about nitrogen fixation through legumes that I didn't know before. Awesome!
When spring and summer planting are coming to an end you may ask yourself what to do the next few months till the next growing season. The thing you should do is Cover Cropping. Cover cropping is “a crop, usually a legume, planted to keep nutrients from leaching, soil from eroding, and land from weeding over, as during the winter.” Cover cropping is important to do because it can improve your soil health by adding more nutrients into the soil. Cover crops also smother the weeds from your garden or farm. Another thing that cover crops do is that they can control pests and diseases from your planting space. There are two main cover crop families and they are Legumes and Grains. Legumes are plants in the pea family for example; clover, vetch, pea and beans. They put nitrogen in the soil. They are also beneficial for insects and pollinators. Also, when turned over (3-4 weeks before planting season) they add organic matter to the soil.
The other cover crop is grain. Grains are plants like; ryegrass, wheat, oats and triticale. Grain cover crops also suppress weeds so you don't have to weed as much in the cold fall and winter months. Grains can also be turned over three to four weeks before planting season to put even more organic matter into the soil. As you can see cover crops are an easy and cost effective way to put your garden to work in the months where most fruits and vegetables can’t be planted. So plant some legumes and grains into your garden to add nutrients into your soil, to improve soil health, to smother weeds and to control pests and diseases.
It's the end of the gardening season, what now? There is still much to be done to get your garden ready for next year. There are ways to protect it from pests, diseases, and weather.
The first thing to do is to collect dry heirloom and open-pollinating seeds that are mature. Harvest food and remove the dead plant material. If disease free, you can compost it and have mulch for your garden. It is a great way to bring less outside sources into your garden, and as a result is better for the environment.
Control diseases in your garden by removing plants that have been overtaken by diseases and dispose of it. A popular disease to watch for are blights. This will make it less likely for your garden to catch diseases and will make it easier for you to maintain.
Mulching and growing cover crops are a great way to protect your soil for next year. Try planting hardy winter cover crops like oats, wheat, barley, etc. They can be used as green manure for your garden in the spring.
Collect maple, alder, and oak leaves. They are great for compost, bedding for worm bins, and covering garden bins. This also helps with using less outside resources for your garden.
Cloches are great for the winter, especially when you plant hardy greens such as spinach and mustard. This is the time to plant bulbs like onions, garlic, shallots, tulips, and daffodils. Also transplant winter-hardy plants like lettuce and kale.
Putting away your tools is an important step. Leaving out your tools can wear them, and potentially rust them. It is best to store them in a dry place over the winter when you are not using them, after you clean and sharpen them. Make sure you turn off your spigots and insulate them, to prevent them from freezing. You can sand wooden handles and cover them with linseed oil to protect them as well.
Doing these things will help your garden while its “sleeping”. It will help prevent disease and pests from overtaking your garden. Getting outside to do these things can be a great conclusion to fall, as people start staying indoors more.
Maritime Northwest Garden Guide
There are a variety of options when it comes to winter grains to plant in a garden. This subject interests me because of the many possibilities of growth, health and organization our garden could have this winter. Growing wheat, rye, oats and barley can benefit the garden in such a strong way. We were also just having this discussion in class about which are best to plant where, so i thought I would elaborate on these four grains in this entry.
Winter barley is a tough little buddy. It can hold out even if the temperature drops below zero. Even if it doesn't last through the winter it brings nutrients to the soil and will make a great mulch come spring time. It also is used regularly to reclaim overgrown space because of its strong and deep root system and its ability to grow quickly. Oats are a fast producer as well and can fill in a garden nicely. It also can withstand our PNW winters because it rarely gets hurt by the cold unless it goes below ten degrees. Oats also create a good mulch and foulage for the spring.
Triticale is an interesting one to look at because it is a combination of wheat and rye, therefor a strong and lasting grain. It can tolerate temperatures below zero. This grain is really good for animal forage, but i am not sure if we necessarily need that in our garden space. There are different types of wheat that all vary in cold tolerance and this one seemed like the best option to me. Im also generally curious to see a mix of wheat and rye.
Cereal rye is a type of rye that has a solid cold tolerance, and works well in sandy and thinner soils. I am not sure if we have any areas of our garden that fit this description but there are multiple ways to check. We can take soil samples, to see what the soil mainly contains. If we fill a clear bottle with water, a tablespoon of detergent and a handful of the soil. Then we let it sit and look at the final results. Another way to tell what soil we have is to squeeze a handful in your palm. If it's in a tight ball then it's clay, if it crumbles easily then we have sand, and if it's crumbly but generally stays together, that's loam.
The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide - October Article
Story of Siracha
In 1980, David Tran immigrated to America from Vietnam to start a new life. He started a company which sold the hot sauce we know today as Sriracha. When David started the business, all he really wanted to do was to offer a hot sauce to other Vietnamese immigrants, which would be of the same quality as the sauce available in Vietnam. In fact, he didn’t even expect his business to become very successful. Sriracha is made by grinding up peppers, then adding salt and preservatives. Then it is stored in large barrels, until garlic, and sugar are added.
Below is a picture of David Tran, standing with the large storage barrels.
To make a smaller scale version of Sriracha, you can use pepper found in your garden.
- 1-2 cups chopped hot red peppers
- 1-2 chopped habanero peppers (optional)
- 2-4 crushed garlic cloves
- 2 quarts filtered water
- 3 tbsp non-iodized sea or kosher salt
The mixture will keep for 2-3 months when refrigerated.
I think that it’s important to learn ways to utilize the things that come from your garden. This can help to motivate gardeners, and help determine the crop selections. It’s also an important life skill to know how to make food from scratch, and growing your own ingredients is even better!
Hatic, Dana. "Watch: How Sriracha Is Made." Eater. N.p., 22 Sept. 2016. Web. 4 Oct. 2016.
Shyong, Frank. "Sriracha Hot Sauce Purveyor Turns up the Heat." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 12 Apr. 2013.
Web. 04 Oct. 2016.
Cordes, Hannah. Jar of homemade Sriracha. Digital image. Blue Kale Road. Blue Kale Road, 14 Jan. 2013. Web. 4 Oct. 2016.