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There is growing interest in the use of short-season summer annual legumes or grasses as cover crops and green manures in vegetable production systems. Cover crops can provide a significant source of nitrogen (N) for subsequent crops; reduce erosion, runoff, and potential pollution of surface waters; capture soil N that might otherwise be lost to leaching; add organic matter to the soil; improve soil physical properties; impact insect and disease life cycles; and suppress nematode populations and weed growth. There can be potential drawbacks, such as cooler soils in the spring, and the additional cost of seeding the cover crop. These factors must be considered depending on the particular cash crops and cover crops being grown.
Throughout this manual we have discussed how organic farmers strive to build healthy soil in order to create the best possible environment for plant growth. A healthy soil is primarily defined by its fertility, which in turn depends largely on the interactions of its physical, chemical, and biological properties.
Cover crops are pivotal parts of every organic farmer’s management scheme. They are crucial to the main goals of building soil health and preventing soil erosion. Cover crops are also important tools for increasing fertility and controlling weeds, pathogens, and insects in organic crops. In this publication, we will discuss planting, growing, and incorporating cover crops as amendments into the soil.
This online publication describes how cover crops affect the soil, how to establish cover crops, and how to manage their residue. It includes a review of the winter and summer cover crops recommended for North Carolina. The authors also discuss the economics of planting cover crops and some concerns to consider when planting cover crops.
This publication describes the composting process, how to make compost that meets National Organic Program standards, and how to apply and utilize compost.
In our drive to meet the food and fiber needs of ever-increasing populations, we are taxing the resilience of the planet’s natural resources. This fevered quest to pursue ever-increasing crop yields has had devastating impacts: widespread soil erosion, atmospheric pollution, over- grazed forage areas, over-cultivated fields, salinated water supplies, cleared land that is unsuitable for crops, and desertification —the loss of agricultural land to desert. The serious degradation of our soil resources has motivated some researchers and farmers to investigate management systems that are less input-intensive and generally more sustainable.
Gardens bring communities together. Not only are community gardens a good way to get more fresh fruits and vegetables in our diets, they also allow us to be active outdoors and build a strong community.