In 2007, mindful that we should be rotating vegetable crops in the garden so the soil doesn't get depleted or diseased, I planted my second-season tomato seedlings in a different spot. What a disaster. The harvest was truly pathetic. This past summer, the tomatoes returned to the vegetable plot, only to be done in by near-drought and thirsty squirrels prone to taking one giant bite and a big slurp out of every tomato on the vine. I'm in no mood in 2009 to make this a hat trick. The tomatoes will stay in the vegetable garden but for the first time, I've planted a cover crop to restore nitrogen to the soil over the winter. I tossed - broadcast - annual winter rye seeds in there a couple of weekends ago. Although this photo looks like it was taken in a jungle, it's a bird's eye view of the rye sprouting. Winter rye helps with soil erosion and topsoil loss, something I don't need to worry much about in my raised beds. But it'll add rich organic matter, improve soil fertility and structure and, I hope, help me grow great tomatoes next year.
A friend has sown red clover for the first time in her much-larger vegetable garden and we plan to compare notes in the spring. I picked rye on the recommendation of an employee at Primex, who said it was the best in our cold winter climate and better than clover for my relatively small area. It won't scale the walls and overwhelm everything else, he said, promising I could cut it down and till it in next spring with good results. Should be a fun experiment and one more thing we can do to avoid synthetic chemicals. I'll let you know.