Cover Crop

When fall arrives, we remove what’s left of the vegetable plants from the raised beds and plant a cover crop.

Photo Credit: Susy Morris
Photo Credit: Susy Morris

In our case, winter rye works the best. Other gardeners use clover, but I prefer rye.

A cover crop is what gardeners and farmers sometimes plant in the soil when they are not growing vegetables to harvest. Cover crop prevents erosion, inhibits weeds, and, maybe most importantly, adds nutrients to the soil.

As the rye grows to maturity, we can till it back into the soil. The winter rye becomes green manure, adding to the health of the soil as it decomposes. By doing this, along with a dressing of compost in the spring, we don’t have to add fertilizers or anything unnatural to the soil before planting next year’s vegetables.

Some people prefer to do a fall season of vegetables, and squeeze more harvest out of the soil. But I find replenishing the soil more beneficial in the long run. The rewards are delayed, but greater.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

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