Cover crops are one of the easiest ways to build up your soil, protect it from the sub-tropical winter dry weather and early Spring heat. They also attract worms and soil microbes and they can be chopped in to add organic matter as well as having a root system that as it dies and decays creates a porous soil. As the root system decays it is consumed by the microbes leaving highways for nutrients, moisture and oxygen to penetrate the soil.
Easy Cover Crops
You would be excused for thinking that growing cover crops in the home garden is too complicated to bother with. Plus it is another expense. When you look up cover crops at seed suppliers they have all these different seeds mixed together and there are cover crops for winter and summer.
Prices for the seeds to cover 10 to 30 square metres average around $12. In the long run that is not a large expense because of the benefits cover crops give you. Not only do they add structure to the soil, but they also attract nitrogen fixing bacteria that take up residence in their roots. Here’s a post about the symbiotic relationship between legume roots and soil bacteria.
Mung Beans an Alternative Cover Crop
The easiest cover crop I have ever grown is Mung Beans. Nearly all beans are legumes and they attract certain microbes to their roots because they exude a substance that the microbes can’t resist. This exudate is food for the microbes and they multiply exponentially and in turn convert nitrogen into food that the plant grows fat on.
You will quite often see your beans take off when the tipping point is reached. This is where the microbe population has built up enough so that there is food in abundance for the bean plants to feed on and if your beans were racehorses, you would say they’ve grown an extra leg.
Where Do You Get It?
So where do you get these amazing Mung Bean seeds. Why at the Asian grocery of course. If you have ever eaten Chinese sweets with a green paste in it, you have been eating green been or Mung Bean. When it comes to eating anything that moves, swims or grows the Chineses are masters of preparing it into an edible delight. Anyone that can make jellyfish a gourmet dish has to know what they are doing.
Cheap as Chips.
Not only will Mung Beans improve your soil and make the following crop grow like you’ve never seen before, they are as cheap as chips. A one kilo bag, like the one pictured above is $4.50 and if you are don’t put them on as thickly as I have in the top photo you will easily get forty to fifty sqmtrs of coverage.
Sprout Like Crazy.
Just add water and these beans sprout in about two days and are up like the ones in the top picture in a couple more days.
Usually, when you buy legumes from a seed supplier, they supply an innoculant to go with the seeds. This is actually a small amount of the rhizobia bacteria pertinent to the type of bean. You make a paste of it and mix the beans in it before planting so that the bacteria is in the soil when the beans start producing food for them.
Don’t worry about not having the innoculant. In most cases in Australia it is already there in the soil. Maybe not in a great quantity and it will take some time to multiply to help you beans grow, but that is not really important. You are growing your crop as a ground cover not for the greatest quantity of beans. You will still get beans, but you may also be growing something else while the cover crop is growing.
Grow Something With the Beans.
There are two reasons for growing the Mung Beans. The first is as a cover crop and the second is as a companion plant to the ginger and turmeric that is planted underneath and waiting for the soil to warm up to send up shoots. I don’t worry that the Mung Beans will be disturbed by the rhizomes below.
What I am looking for is the Mung Beans to attract the bacteria that will create a nitrogen in a plant available form. And as the rhizomes crowd out the Mung Beans they will die and the foliage and root system will decay into the soil. What a bonus. And all this for just a couple of dollars. You can’t buy fertilizers for two dollars that will do all that.
That’s a Wrap
I could go on for a lot longer about the benefits of cover crops but the thing to take from this is they work, and it is easy. And they are cheap. If you get sick of Mung Beans, try Soy Beans or Adzuki Beans.
thanks for reading cheers Olman