After the summer garden is gone there is still work to be done. My daughters and I went out last week to take care of some last minute raised bed winterizing. We are doing one important step now: adding organic matter. Why? Because organic matter matters! By improving the soil you enrich it with the nutrients the plants need to be happy. We are using a readily available supply of newspapers like we did to add material to the compost bin. We shredded them down and mixed them into the beds. They will break down over time and will help the beds maintain their moisture.
After we added the shredded newspaper we leveled the soil and sprinkled red clover seed (Trifolium pratense) over the garden. Clover is an excellent cover crop for the garden since its roots have a nitrogen fixing property that will help to add nitrogen back into the soil. When the clover flowers we’ll turn it back into the soil to use as an organic green manure then cover the beds with plastic to let them cook for the last couple of weeks before spring planting. By covering the raised beds with plastic we should be able to kill off all the clover plants and prevent the clover from becoming a weed in the raised bed garden. We should be able to replenish any used nitrogen in the garden and enhance our garden for next year without artificial fertilizers. Feed the soil and you feed the plants! (More importantly: feed the soil-feed the plants-feed the gardener!)
One thing to note: legumes may not be advisable to plant after a clover cover crop as clover is a legume and is susceptible to the same diseases. Clovers and vetches (legumes) as well as wheat, rye, and oats (grasses) are some good suggestions for winter cover crops in Tennessee. (And probably many other areas too!)
To see what others are doing in their vegetable gardens go visit Tina at In the Garden for her November Veggie Garden Update!