Planting a garden cover crop in fall can reap real payoffs in spring. By covering fallow ground, cover crops suppress the growth of bothersome annual weeds like chickweed and henbit, reduce erosion and prevent soil compaction. Cover crops are often called green manure because they enrich the soil like compost. When cover crops are tilled or spaded under, their decomposition improves the soil by adding organic matter. Plants in the legume family offer the extra benefit of adding nitrogen to the soil. Some gardeners grow cover crops as a "living mulch," meaning they leave some of the cover crop in place during the growing season and interplant food plants among it (similar to farmers' no-till method). Beneficial legume cover crops include crimson clover, vetch, fava beans and field peas. Other suitable plants include annual ryegrass, oats and winter wheat. Clemson Extension has a helpful guide to cover crops that may be viewed at the following site: www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/pdf/hgic1252.pdf.
- Keep the edible garden going by planting early-maturing greens and veggies for fall harvest. Vegetables to plant now include beets, carrots, spinach and bok choi (can withstand light frost) and kale and collards (can withstand heavy frost).
- Plant garlic from mid-September through November (on the early end of the range in the western parts of the state). Garlic needs adequate time for roots to develop before winter and about a two-month cold period for robust bulbs to form in spring.
- Before selecting trees and shrubs, learn the average height and spread at maturity and site them accordingly. This will save years of pruning and the need to butcher them when they encroach on streets, driveways, houses and utility lines.