Sunset

Admit it -- you babied your tomatoes plants all season long, handpicking every aphid, fretting over any curled leaves, and savoring each perfectly ripened fruit.

Now it’s time to give some attention to the soil.

Fall is a great time to plant a cover crop. It’s super easy and there are a million reasons to do it. Here are my top three reasons why it might be time to consider a cover crop in your veggie patch:

1. Fix nitrogen - Many vegetable crops are heavy feeders, meaning they use up a lot of nutrients in the soil. Leguminous cover crops, such as fava beans or hairy vetch, will replace the nitrogen and improve overall soil fertility.

2. Improve soil structure - Do you have compacted soil? Try planting fenugreek. It's deep taproot tolerates and even looses heavy soil. Is too much sand your problem? A cover crop such as buckwheat will add much needed organic matter.

3. Prevent erosion - An organic gardener will shudder at the site of bare soil. Protect your soil by keeping it cover cropped while not in production. This makes your precious top soil less vulnerable to runoff or erosion. Clover, oats, and rye are all excellent choices for erosion control.

My favorite selection of seeds is from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply. Download the Cover Crop Solutions Chart to pinpoint which combination is best for your land.

I chose fava beans and crimson clover for the test garden this year. Both fix nitrogen and are easy to till into the ground in the spring. Additionally, crimson clover has a stunning bloom. Anything in the name of beauty! Here's how they look today:

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