Home Gardener's Guide to Easy Cover Cropping With Pea Plants

Cover cropping is the farmer's "secret" for fertilizing and aerating soil naturally, but the practice of growing beneficial crops closely together can easily be done in a home garden.

If you want to give your soil a nutrient boost while harvesting a delicious vegetable all season long, try growing Austrian winter peas (a type of cold-hardy field pea).

This edible cover crop adds nitrogen while protecting and improving your soil at the same time, and best of all, you don't need to "turn it in" if you use my no-dig method.

Here’s how to plant a cover crop scatter garden:



Coat your pea seeds in soil inoculant.



Once your seeds are nicely coated with inoculant, scatter several handfuls over your garden bed. Try to give the seeds enough space (around an inch or so) so they don’t germinate in crowded clumps.



When you’ve got a layer of seeds spread fairly evenly across the surface, use a rake or hand cultivator to work them down into the soil to a depth of about 1/2 to 1 inch.


Water. (And optionally, mulch.)

Water the seeds in thoroughly. If you live in a dry climate that doesn’t get much rain in fall, add a light layer of straw mulch (no more than 1 inch) to help hold in moisture.



Austrian winter peas produce a tangle of vines that grow anywhere from 2 to 4 feet in length. However, you can start harvesting about one-third of the leaves from each plant once it grows 6 to 8 inches tall.

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