Cover Crops in your Texas Garden

How to use cover crops to make a stronger, healthier organic garden.

 

Urban Organics Houston garden boxes cover cropA cover crop is a plant or group of plants that grow quickly and provie several benefits to your garden. Cover crops are a great resource that home gardeners can use to enrich soil, keep  weeds at bay and grow better veggies! Several varieties well suited for Texas and the South during summer are:

 

Cowpeas: 

Considered the most productive heat-adapted legume in the United States. The dense growth habit suppresses weeds, provides nitrogen to the soil and helps build the soil when it is turned under. Grow as a summer annual. Also known as Southern peas, black-eye peas and crowder peas.

 

Buckwheat: 

Not many cover crops grow as rapidly and as easily as buckwheat, it is considered the speedy short-season summer cover crop. Other attributes are that it suppresses weeds, provides nectar for beneficial insects(HELPS BEES!!), loosens topsoil and rejuvenates low-fertility soils. Grow as a summer or cool-season annual.

 

Sorghum-Sudangrass hybrids:

Crosses between forage-type sorghums and sudangrass, these grass hybrids are unrivaled in their ability to add organic matter your soil in the heat of our Texas summer. They love the heat, grow tall very quickly, can smother weeds and suppress some nematode species. To get them to grow deeper roots, which helps to break up compacted soil, is to trim them back when they get to about three feet. Grow as a summer annual. They are not frost tolerant. Also known as Sudex or Sudax.

 

‘No Bare Ground’ should be your motto as a backyard farmer! Always have something growing.

Urban-Organics-Houston
Garden To Do List June 2015

The easy guide to start your summer garden off right

 

Well folks, it’s officially Summer! Late sunsets, family BBQ’s, bountiful harvests, iced tea and HEAT! Those of you who’ve been in Houston know that I’m not talking about your run of the mill hot. We have a special kinda hot down here. There’s hot and then there’s Houston Hot. Many natives refer to it as [expletive] hot, which adequately describes it. But that’s a whole different topic…

By taking a few precautionary steps at the beginning of the season, you can help your garden survive and thrive through the humid furnace approaching us. 

Check your Irrigation

First, check and test your irrigation systems to ensure they’re functioning properly. With all of the rain we’ve been getting lately you shouldn’t have to be watering much at all. If you’re using our drip irrigation kits, turn on your water and check the grid for any leaks. Pay close attention to the connection areas. Give each corner compression fitting an extra push for good measure. Then, make sure your grid is sitting on top of the soil in your beds. 

Add Compost

Next, add a 1-2” layer of compost to your garden and lightly scratch it into the soil with a hand rake. Adding a layer of fresh compost will provide the soil with fresh organic matter which will also leave behind readily available nutrients for your plants as it breaks down. 

Pruning

Prune any low hanging leaves and branches on your veggies and herbs. You don’t want any leaves touching the soil. Prune your veggies and herbs to allow at least 3-6” of clearance between the soils surface and your lowest leaves.  This will allow air to circulate and reduce the chances of leaf mold and other soil borne bacteria from splashing onto the leaves during rain.

Mulch it

Finally, mulch… Add a thick (2-3”) layer of organic mulch to the top of the garden bed. Mulching your garden beds will help conserve moisture and keep weeds down. The layer of mulch acts as an umbrella, of sorts, and keeps the water from your drip irrigation system from evaporating on soils surface. We recommend native mulch that’s been slightly “cooked”(composted). It lasts longer and will also provide a steady supply of fresh compost and nutrients to your soil. Happy soil = Happy plants! You can also use straw or fine bark mulch. NEVER use dyed mulch! Dyed mulch is colored using a chemical process that can then leech into the soil your trying to keep happy and healthy. 

Now for the Fun Stuff

Once you’ve completed these must-do things, use our June Garden Checklist throughout the rest of the month to keep your garden producing its best:

 

June Garden Checklist

  • There’s still time to plant Eggplants, pumpkin, collards, tomatoes and squash from seed for a fall crop. 
  • Plant mustard and turnips from seed for harvesting tender baby greens.
  • You can also continue planting corn, cantaloupe, okra, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, southern peas, summer squash and bush beans. 
  • Plant a cover crop in vacant beds. Read our tips on how to use cover crops
  • Keep an eye out for pests! Aphids and leaf footed bugs on tomatoes and other plants can cause serious damage. 
  • Provide water nearby for birds so they don’t peck at the fruits of your labor looking for moisture. 
Have a glass of cold iced tea while you sit back and enjoy all you’ve done to prepare your urban organic garden for summer.

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