Definition: Incorporating a plant on arable land that primarily serves to slow erosion, improve soil health, enhance water availability, help control pests and diseases, and increase biodiversity, rather than provide a harvestable product.
Cover Cropping in the Forest Garden:
While it may seem counterintuitive to cultivate a crop for something other than food or income, cover cropping can do wonders for a Forest Garden. Both in the long and short term, these crops improve soil health and can save farmers money.
To ensure more vigorous and increased yields without spending large sums of money on expensive inputs, farmers periodically choose to plant a cover crop prior to planting their main marketable crops. The cover crop can fix some nutrients into the soil while it grows and then add even more in the form of green manure when it is chopped and left to decompose into organic matter. The vegetative growth of the cover crop will also provide the soil with increased protection from the sun, wind, and rain, reducing evaporation as well erosion of topsoil and nutrients.
With that said, some cover crops can also provide harvestable products! Find out more about cover cropping in the upcoming April Edition of the FGTC newsletter. You can sign up for the newsletter here.