best cover crop/where to buy

(Question)

Hello, I am in Toronto (zone 6?) and am wondering what is the best cover crop to protect the bare soil surrounding my annual and perennial plants. I’ve heard white clover is good because it is a small size, perennial, and does not need to be mowed. Will it compete for nutrients if surrounding tomato for example? Are there are any other better examples?

Also, do you know where in Toronto I can purchase the following (ideally organic)?
– aforementioned white clover
– ostrich fern (matteuccia struthiopteris)
– canadian wild ginger
– ground nut

I appreciate your help and thank you so very much for reading!

(Answer)

Cover crops, also known as green manure crops, are typically grains, grasses, or legumes that will grow during fall and winter and that one can till under in the spring for nutrients.  They are meant to add nutrients to the soil, not compete for them.  For a home vegetable garden, a cover crop should ideally grow quickly to shade out weeds and be easily worked into the soil in the spring before planting your vegetables.

When selecting your cover crop, there are some pros and cons to each to consider.  According to Cornell University, grasses are easier to grow than legumes such as clover because they germinate more quickly and do not require inoculation (the process of adding a bacteria to the seed before planting). Grasses do, however, require mowing. Small seeded crops are more difficult to establish than large seeded types such as oats and buckwheat. For shading out weeds, winter rye and ryegrass grow much more densly than oats or small seeded legumes. To view a chart that compares cover crops please see the following link: https://www.gardening.cornell.edu/factsheets/ecogardening/impsoilcov.html

Cover crops vary in planting times, but usually occur from mid-August to late September.  They must be planted in time to become well established before cold weather arrives.

For information on where to purchase the items you are requesting, please visit Landscape Ontario at https://landscapeontario.com/garden-centres/43.516700744629/-79.88330078125 and choose the garden centre closest to you.