Success in Next Year’s Garden Begins Now

Home Grown  by Keith Reed
As another Oklahoma summer draws to a close, it is easy to allow the influence of our hot, dry August to overcome our desire to get back out into the garden. Don’t give in, as completing a few simple gardening tasks this fall can pay big dividends next season. Fall is the time to focus on caring for the soil, which also makes it a good time to construct new garden beds. Fall cover crops are a great place to start.

Fall cover crops are winter annual crops selected for this use because they generally grow well in the fall and early winter in our climate. Plants that work well for this purpose include grasses such as winter wheat and rye (cereal rye, not turfgrass). Legumes such as clover, peas, and vetch also work very well. An advantage of using legumes is their ability to “fix” atmospheric nitrogen so it is available for garden plants next spring. Turnips can also be used as a cover crop in certain situations. Although they can be a bit of a problem to till in the spring, they work very well for breaking up tight soils.

In addition to the nitrogen benefit already mentioned, cover crops will add valuable organic matter to the soil as the crop is incorporated into the soil next spring. One note of caution: Be sure and till these crops in before they go to seed in the spring as they can become weed problems if given the opportunity. Cover crops also play an important role in reducing soil erosion and help to hold valuable soil moisture.

For more information on this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at
keith.reed@okstate.edu, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.

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