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Mason County Junior Master Gardener 4-H club co-leaders Randy Bell and Glenn Fanter sow a cover crop to improve garden soil in the kids garden located at the Mason County 4-H and Jr. Show Fairgrounds. Photo by Paula Lane, Office Support Assistant

Cover Crops Trialed by Junior Master Gardeners


The sands of Mason County do not always contain necessary nutrients needed for good garden growth.

To fix this problem, Mason County Junior Master Gardeners (JMG) are trying cover crops in their gardens located at the Mason County fairgrounds.

Cover crops are plants grown in a garden to improve a soil's structure and fertility. They are a living mulch that competes with weeds, helps with soil erosion, and provides organic matter and nutrients. They are often referred to as green manure crops.

Master Gardeners Randy Bell and Glenn Fanter co-lead the JMG youth group. Glenn uses cereal rye to improve the sandy soil in his own gardens. "My cover crops are so successful that we decided to try them in these gardens too," says Fanter. For their first attempt Fanter and Bell sowed tillage radishes and oats.

The August 30th planting was made possible by several local business donations. Stelter-Hofreiter, Inc. donated use of the tractor and seeder. Perkins Seed House provided the seed. The gardens are irrigated with a water reel donated in 20123 by KIFCO.

Want to join the cover crop craze? Cover crops can be planted immediately after harvesting vegetables, and they require at least four weeks of growing before cold weather stops growth. There are many different types of cover crops to try, including wheat, oats, rye, buckwheat, mustards, and forage turnips, to name a few.

Cornell University has more information on cover crops for vegetable gardens at http://www.nysaes.cornell.edu/hort/faculty/bjorkman/covercrops/ccseeds.html.

The Mason County JMGs are also a 4-H club. September 1st begins a new 4-H year and is an excellent time to join the fun. For more information on 4-H, JMGs, cover crops, and more, contact the Havana Extension office at 543-3308 or mg-mason@illinois.edu.



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