My first organic farm mentor used to refer to topsoil as “skin of the Earth.”.And each time this fine layer is broken by plow, nature’s response to heal by covering its wound with a green bandage of plants. This moment of healing becomes an opportunity. A chance for farmers to blend their own mixture of plants into a beneficial poultice.
This is where “cover crops” come in. Both preventative and restorative, cover crops are specific species of plants proven to restore soil fertility. On our farm, I make long-term rotational plantings of cover crops such as alfalfa, rye, clover, oats, buckwheat, vetch and sorghum key components of our fertility program.
But how do cover crops work? Why do they help? And why is topsoil so important anyway?