1. Sow winter rye in the fall.
  2. Till it under in the spring, or let it grow out over the summer and till it under in fall.

Variation: You can save yourself a lot of time tilling down rye if you follow Julie's no-dig cover crop technique When the rye reaches about 3 feet tall, lay cardboard over the rye, breaking and flattening the ryegrass beneath it. Then cover the cardboard with a I-inch-thick layer of compost. In I to 1 months, the

A dense crop of winter rye chokes out competing weeds and improves the soil. To kill the rye belore it goes to seed, break the crop stems and lay flattened cardboard boxes on top. Cover the cardboard with an inch of compost. Let the rye decompose for several weeks and then plant straight into the compost.

rye and cardboard should be decomposed. "That created some of our richest plots," Julie says. "We planted our tomatoes in them, and we had tomatoes like I've never seen belore."

"Using cover crops is probably the most important single aspect of our weed control/' says Alan Kapuler, research director for Seeds of Change, an organic seed company in Santa Fe, New Mexico. You can sow seeds of traditional cover crops such as rye, hairy vetch, clovers, and buckwheat to add green matter to your soil and smother weeds. Or you can use your imagination to find other plants to fill space before weeds do. That's the key: no bare ground, Alan says. Along with traditional cover crops, Alan plants flowers, herbs, and even vegetables as cover crops to keep ground covered with desirable rather than pest plants. Here are some of the more unusual (and effective) cover crops used by Alan.

Anise hyssop provides shelter and nectar for bees.

Bronze fennel offers shelter for beneficial insects.

Lettuce grows quickly and provides green matter that can be turned under the soil.

Marigolds discourage nematodes in the soil.

Peas add nitrogen to the soil.

Poppies provide beauty as well as weed control.

Sunflowers can be cut and left to decompose on the ground, where they act as a mulch and add carbon to the soil.

Organic Gardeners Composting

Organic Gardeners Composting

Have you always wanted to grow your own vegetables but didn't know what to do? Here are the best tips on how to become a true and envied organic gardner.

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