Gardening is truly a beautiful thing. The feeling you get after weeks of hard work when you finally see a big, ripe tomato weighing on the vine. Or when you see the string beans dangling from their own respective tangled vines. Or, in lieu of the recent Halloween season, that moment when you see your fully-grown pumpkin ready to be plucked from the garden and carved into a frightful Jack-O-Lantern.
Whatever you love to plant, it’s a new season– which comes with new responsibilities. And the things you do in the garden this fall can seriously affect how well your growing season goes next spring. If you’re really looking for optimal gardening health this fall and looming future seasons, then perhaps the best vegetable you can plant this season is the forage radish, indicates recent research out of the University of Maryland.
So I know what you’re thinking: “Oh great, I can’t wait until my radish crop finally grows in…”. It doesn’t bring about the same sort of validation or salivation that a zucchini crop might conjure; that being said, the research confirms that these kinds of radishes encourage proper soil health.
Using funding out of the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE), researchers realized that crops “in no-till, no fertilizer, and no herbicide farms” that included forage radishes during the fall months, had superior yields of spinach once spring came around compared with crops that employed an oat cover crop (or didn’t have a cover crop at all).
This radish’s growth is quick, and combined with its broad leaves, helps to suppress weeds. Better yet, it will also help till your soil; its powerful root can actually drill into the soil and loosen it up, claims researchers from the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Once the radish dies come winter time, the open space left in its wake lets the soil dry up faster come springtime.
According to Deborah L. Martin, expert organic gardener, having “too many tiller turns” in the garden wrecks your soil by destroying its natural structure. Tilling also decreases the organic matter content in your soil, because it quickens the decomposition process involved with soil’s natural organic reserves.
When you further consider tilling is tough on earthworms—it chops up many while leaving others exposed to brutal environmental factors– why wouldn’t you want to plant some forage radishes this fall?
As someone who knows firsthand how difficult gardening can be, I’ll admit the best part comes at the end– when you reap the harvest you’ve sowed and can enjoy all the delicious produce that you’ve helped to create. But is it worth the toil (pun intended) and trouble spent growing a crop to reach that delicious peak season growth?
If the answer is yes, try some forage radishes this fall!
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