As summer approaches, the harvesting season here at Sweetwater Organic Community Farm will soon come to an end. In preparation for this transition, a cover crop method is used to ensure that the soil is ready and healthy for the upcoming harvest while we wait for the hot summer temperatures to pass.
Why is a cover crop method used in the summer? Florida summers tend to be too hot and humid and not ideal for the growth of our plants, so we use this time to enrich the soil by planting a cover crop. A cover crop is planted during the off-season and left temporarily. This method not only helps to control erosion, it also improves the health of the soil by enhancing nutrient cycling such as nitrogen from the organic matter which increases the fertility of the soil.
Cover crops also suppress those unwanted weeds from growing. Another benefit to this practice is that with the increase in organic matter and nutrients, the soil will provide a home to microbes that indirectly protect the plant roots. So once summer comes to an end, the cover crops will be removed and the soil will be ready for the next harvesting season!
The two plants we use as cover crops are sesbania (left) and sunn hemp (right).
Written by Dayane Martins, Intern