The soil between vegetable rows is kept covered once seedlings are up and around hand height, first with the early sowing of spinach or light cover, which can protect neighbouring seedlings from pests and sun. The roots of the spinach (see post on spinach) and mustard which are left in the ground, adds a further dimension to the benefits. At the beginning of the growing season, a cover crop can be sown half way between each row, or the space can be covered straight away with live covering, once the seedlings are near hand height. Spinach grown half way between the crop rows, works best for this. Chop it down once the crop seedlings are established. Over the year build the cover with nearly all things green (accept a few mentioned later).
Keeping it topped up with as much variation as possible, ensures that this season’s and especially next season’s crop will be as well furnished as possible. Using erbs (including ones from the border) as part of the cover will greatly benefit the soil and the life within while preventing pests and disease.
Some advantages of cover;
Keeps soil protected from direct sunlight,
Keeps soil protected from rain,
Keeps soil protected from wind,
Acts as a filter for plants,
Reduces the need for watering massively,
Creates a good home for roots, earthworms, and lots of other creatures,
Nutrients are stored, preserved and released properly to plants – roots have an abundant supply and apportion nutrients and water to the receiving plant with ease,
Roots are in a happy environment, nearly always moist but never waterlogged.
Aim to keep soil that does not have seedlings/plants growing in it, covered at all times. Soil which is rooted with roots and shaded by leaves produces proper plants in time. Then these plants will eventually become food for the soil and the live-cycle continues.
The covering provides food for earthworms and all other soil life, while also protecting soil from damage, nutrient leaching, water leaching, capping from the sun etc. Covering is not only the best way to achieve a good soil, but also the best method for preserving good soil. (NOTE: Covering is not usually used until the vegetable seedlings are about hand height, so the covering doesn’t cover the seedlings. [Wind, birds etc move the covering about]).
No straw or peat. Use plenty of medicinal erbs, leaves of harvested vegetables / erbs, wild flowers, flowers which have finished (seeds in flower heads/fruit pods are not a problem), lawn and grass cuttings and hedge clippings are all good. Keep tidy and ordered. A path will quickly be formed, and when the covering is proper and thick, it can even be used as a path in wet, rainy weather.
Chopping the material up helps to keep tidiness and order. Also, woody material can be chopped up if the equipment is available. When chopped into small fine pieces it is ideal for cover and properties within the cells of wood prevent weeds from germinating and growing. Using woody material, that is not shredded, takes a long time to break down and so is un-practical for cover.
Chopping Up Live Cover