Using Cover Crops for Soil Health


By: Erin LaFaive, Horticulture Educator UW- Extension, Eau Claire County

Gardens that are worked year after year lose nutrients and organic matter. Adding materials such as partially rotted barnyard manure, composted cow manure, compost, or green manure crops, assists in correcting this depletion problem.

Green manures are also referred to as cover crops. For the home gardener, some of the more easily managed cover crops include buckwheat, oats, and berseem clover because they can be cut and tilled into the soil with hand tools. The key to successfully using cover crops is to cut them BEFORE they create seeds. A flowering cover crop is a sure sign that you must cut them down ASAP.

Cover crops are also beneficial because they help to smotherweeds by blocking the sun-preventing weed seeds from germinating. Cover crops’ root systems can break up compacted soils, adding air pockets within the soil for much needed space for roots and water to navigate. Organic matter is re-introduced to the soil as roots, and leaves decay after the plant is cut and tilled. Some cover crops attract beneficial insects that prey on plant eating insects.

Types of Cover Crops

Buckwheat is an annual, warm-season plant that grows quickly. It sends out a chemical through its root system to inhibit other seeds around it from sprouting, including quack grass seeds. It attracts bees and other pollinators as well as beneficial insects such as lady bugs and lacewings. If you have a Japanese beetle problem, this is not your cover crop as it has a tendency to attract them.

Oats are a fast-growing, cool-season grass. Planted in late summer, it will produce a large quantity of dry matter. It can survive the first few frosts in the fall. It will be killed by winter and easily tilled into the garden in spring.

Berseem clover is a fast-growing, cool-season annual. It can fix nitrogen from the air through its root system. After tilling the plant into the soil, the nitrogen is released in the soil for plant use. It tolerates a light frost.

When to Seed

When to seed a cover crop varies depending on garden establishment and harvesting schedules. In general, cover crops are planted in early spring or late summer. Here are a few recommendations for specific situations.

New garden beds established in spring or early summer can benefit by growing one or two crops of heat-loving buckwheat or beans. New gardens started in late summer benefit from a cover crop that grows quickly in cool weather, including ryegrass, rapeseed, or oats. The dead plant material is turned into the soil in late fall or the following spring.

Another way to use green manures is in established vegetable gardens after early-maturing vegetables have been harvested. Some gardeners continue to plant vegetables that thrive in hot weather or later in the season for vegetables that thrive on the increasing cool weather of the oncoming fall. For those gardeners that need to help depleted soil or simply don’t want to plant a successive crop, plant green manure where these vegetables were growing to keep garden weed free, prevent soil erosion, and add organic matter to the soil. Turn in the dead plant material after a killing frost in late fall.

How to Plant Cover Crops

  • Rake the soil smooth.
  • Broadcast the seed by hand or a broadcast seeder. Sow seeds thickly.
  • Rake soil again to cover seed.
  • Water if necessary.

Things to Consider

Some cover crops can reach heights of two feet. Ask yourself if you will be able to mow a few times as it grows before incorporating the clippings into the soil. If not, the clippings may become matted down by snow pack, which can lead to slow soil warming and drying in spring.

If something prevents you from cutting the cover crop before it flowers, consider finding someone who can. If not, seeds will be added to the soil, and they’ll be popping up in the vegetable garden again. If they do reseed, consider allowing the cover crop to sprout and cut it when the time is appropriate. That garden may need to rest for a growing season to allow the seed bank to eliminate itself through a successive growing pattern. Through the use of green manures the soil will contain more organic matter and beneficial microoganisms and have fewer weeds than before.

Additional Resources

Cover Crops for the Home Garden by John Hendrickson and Jim Stute Erin LaFaive is the horticulture educator for UW-Extension in Eau Claire County.   Erin earned a M.S. in Environmental Studies from the Nelson Institute for environmental studies at the University of Madison-Wisconsin.  She also earned a B.S. in geography with an emphasis in natural resource management at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Rain Barrels: A Win-Win for All

By: Jeannie Voeks

Happy Earth Day Month!  Let’s talk about one simple thing we can do for Mother this year in promoting sustainability.  That is saving her gift of rainwater. There are different reasons to want to do this.

There are Economic reasons as well as Ecologic reasons that saving and using rainwater is beneficial.  For lack of space and in keeping with Earth Day, I am going to focus on the Ecological aspect only.

Eco-logical benefits:

Collecting rain in barrels helps slow runoff and encourages rain to soak into the soil more efficiently, to recharge groundwater supplies and protect sensitive ecosystems.

Overloaded municipal sewer systems can cause untreated sewage to flow to lakes and rivers, thus causing pollution to our valued lakes and rivers.

By saving rainwater from wetter seasons, you’ll have plenty to use without taxing the municipal supply, or your well during the summer, helping out during times of not-so-rainy days.

Eco-facts to consider:

Gardens, trees, bedding and house plants are more likely to flourish when they always receive Mother Nature’s pH-balanced rainwater. What could be more simple and natural?

Have you ever noticed how green a good rain turns lawns and gardens?  This is not just “a good cleaning up” by the rainwater.  The soil is replenished by this natural pH water, nitrogen is delivered to the soil and plants thrive.

Rainwater is a constant renewable resource to Earth because of its continuous production cycle and is very pure due to the water cycle it goes through.  Although there are some similarities between rainwater and tap water, there are also many differences.

Tap water contains contaminants due to the many substances collected in the environment.  These contaminants, such as pesticides, prescription drugs, sewage, bacteria, metals, oil, etc. then need to be filtered out, so it can be used for drinking and cooking.

So WHY is rainwater better than tap water for our plants and lawns?  Well, there are a few reasons…

Simply said, it is what Mother Nature intended.  Rainwater is purer, more easily absorbed because it is naturally soft and free of minerals. This allows for healthier growth.

► Salt exists in the soil naturally. In areas where the water is naturally full of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, sodium (salt) is used in municipal water and in water softeners to soften water to reduce deposit buildup. Too much salt is bad for plants, and as it builds up it starves the roots of water. Rainwater dilutes the salts in the soil and pushes them further down, away from the plant’s root system.

► Municipal water services add a lot of chemicals to the water supply to keep it clean as it flows through pipes. Fluoride and chlorine are very common additives. Fluoride is put into the water in an effort to keep people’s teeth healthy. Chlorine is used to kill off harmful bacteria in the water supply. Both of these chemicals affect the pH of the soil, often making it too acidic for maintaining healthy plants. Rainwater contains neither of these chemicals, having been filtered by evaporation, and is pure.

I hope this has helped you understand the benefits and importanceof harvesting rainwater for your plants, gardens, trees and lawn.

Try rainwater for other uses, too.  You’ll be surprised how much you’ll like it for washing your car, bathing your pet, or washing your own hair…you might find that you wont need to buy conditioner, as rainwater is naturally soft.

Many of us are finding ways to go back to a simpler way of life.  This is one of those smarter, simpler ways that make sense, save money and save on the environment.  Give it a try…oh, and if you do, please remember to choose a rain barrel that is good for the environment and won’t end up in a landfill.  Mother Earth will thank you!

Green Planet Rain Barrels, LLC


Green Pages » Nov./Dec. ‘14

Urbal Tea Is a Local Milwaukee Herbal Tea Company

Every blend of Urbal Tea is formulated to assist in the healing, strengthening, and preserving of the entire human body.   Herbal tea works with the body in an all-natural way to promote balance and good health.  Almost any herbal leaf, flower, and root can be made into tea.  What makes us different is that we only blend herbs; therefore none of our herbal blends contain actual tea or caffeine.  Camellia sinensis, known as the tea plant, is just one plant.  Our herbal infusions focus on all the other species of plants Mother Nature provides.  We incorporate many local herbs like nettle, dandelion, burdock, and clover.  Many of these herbs can be found right in your own backyards.  All of the herbal teas contain numerous vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and each blend targets a different ailment or need.  Meant to be enjoyed every day, Urbal Teas provide a bounty of nourishing herbs to benefit the entire body and soul.  Our passion is to help people kick the caffeine and processed-sugar beverages.  Drinking tea is a simple and easy way to refresh and heal.  Please visit our website for more details on all the wonderful blends we offer.

Urbal Tea is liquid for life.

Poofy Organics

About ten years ago, I decided to go green with my household and personal care products. My only exceptions have been hair dye, stain, and bleach. If you know me, you would likely agree one never knows from one day to the next what color my hair may be. That being said, my husband used to make comments during those ten plus years of chemical-free living about how he missed the way I used to smell during our dating years. I used toxic perfumes and chemical-laden body sprays from famous mall stores, which in turn equated to an allergy pill a day for over fourteen years. Frankly, I just hadn’t found anything that was pure enough for me to put back on my body, so I stayed away from scents altogether.

In October 2012, I attended the Holistic Mom’s conference in Chicago.  While wearing my nametag and browsing the booths early in the morning, I heard a woman exclaim, “Wow, your name is Aphrodite? You should sell our products!”  I thought to myself, “Yeah right! I just don’t think that there are any products out there that are safe enough, up to my standards, or are not filled with things that I don’t want in my house.” Excitedly, and upon further investigation, I found myself intrigued by the pure, clean, organic ingredients.

That day was the very first day of my fantastic journey. By noon, I had become an Independent Poofy Organics Diva, which in turn made me their very first recruited Diva. A Diva hosts home and Internet-based parties while educating people about the benefits of toxic-free living. I had not realized until I walked away from the table that fateful day that I had just met the founder, owner, and CEO of Poofy Organics, Kristina Gagliardi-Wilson.

Poofy Organics was founded in 2006 after one of Kristina’s family members was diagnosed with cancer. During this frightening battle, Kristina discovered there simply were no truly safe products on the market for her family to use. She began making her own pure, clean, organic products. As local interests grew in her creations, she decided to sell her homemade products on eBay. It quickly became obvious that her calling was much bigger. She soon opened her own store, Poofy Organics, sweetly named after her daughter’s childhood nickname.

Poofy products are made in small batches by hand at our USDA certified organic facility in Rutherford, New Jersey. All products are gluten free, cruelty free, contain zero toxins, and have no hidden ingredients. We offer a wide variety of luxurious bath and body products for the entire family. There are fun kids’ scents available within our Young, Wild, & Free line. Other product lines include I AM goddess for Women, Ruggedly Natural for Men, Baby Poof for Infants & Toddlers, Poofy Polish for everyone, delightfully aromatic household cleaners for your home, and USDA certified organic essential oils for your peace of mind.

For information on parties, great shipping rates, and answers to your questions contact me today -715.552.1474

Check us out at

Good for You and Earth: CORE Meals

Oakland, California—based CORE Foods began after Corey, the founder, lived with twelve different tribes around the world. He hand-ground corn in Mexico, foraged for sago grubs in Papua New Guinea, rice farmed in Indonesia, herded goats in Mongolia, beat taro in Brazil, and sling-shot dik-dik in South Africa. All these experiences drew him to conclude that for best nutrition, one should eat mostly whole fresh fruits and vegetables.

Through a loan from Whole Foods Market, CORE Foods was born, with the goal of making it possible for anyone to eat healthy anywhere, anytime. Corey wanted the company to be not-for-profit due to the universal principle he had observed in every tribe he’d lived with: treat others they way you want to be treated.

By Earth Day 2010, CORE had developed two meals: Defender Meals (oats, nuts, seeds, fruits—for daily healthy living) and Warrior Meals (whey protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates—for energy, endurance, and strength). Each meal keeps you fueled for four hours. All meals are of high-quality nutrient-dense whole certified organic ingredients—no syrups, salts, oils, flours, or additives. Meals have no preservatives, so a meal can last one week on the go, one month if chilled, and six months if frozen.  Each pack of ten meals costs about $40.

CORE Meals are available in 300 stores nationwide or at CORE uses local sources as much as possible, and the meals are gluten free and kosher. In efforts to protect the environment, CORE uses American-made recycled and low-waste materials and avoids excess waste and energy use. CORE offsets its remaining emissions via The company supports community involvement in its hometown of Oakland by donating thousands of CORE Meals to the homeless and by participating in other community events.

Honey Salon: Could This Be What You’ve Wanted?

by Barbara Tzetzo Gosch, freelance writer

After fourteen years as a professional hair stylist, Becca Barr
created her vision of an eco-friendly and wellness-centered beauty salon in Eau Claire. Barr has combined her healthy lifestyle and entrepreneurial skills to provide clients with a “Special Place” where they can feel pampered and safer from chemicals.

“While growing up, I was taught to pay attention not only to the food I would eat but what I’d put on my body,” she revealed.

The awareness to take charge of your health needs along with her hair stylist listening skills contributed to Barr’s discovery that a new kind of hair salon service was needed. She was reminded of clients, as well as herself, who had experienced allergic and other reactions from using hair products that have an increase in chemicals. “Honey,” was selected to be part of her salon’s name because—it’s a natural alternative. In addition, Barr, who is a beekeeper, decided upon the “Queen Bee” as its logo, expressing her dedication to the environment.

At Honey Salon:

1. She uses gentle, ammonia-free color—plus, sulfate-, gluten-, and paraben-free products.

2. Products used are organic.  See “Intelligent Nutrients” website at

3. You’re the only customer in the salon during your appointment, and you get personal service for that unique good cut, style, and blow dry.

4. Online scheduling encourages clients to email or text photos to obtain their desired style.

5. The salon is family friendly and welcomes children.

6. The salon is accessible to physically challenged clients.

7. Relaxing massages and soothing herbal tea available.

As bees are attracted to honey, you may find yourself wanting an especially sweet experience that Honey Salon provides!

2704 London Rd. Eau Claire (715-864-9571).

Are You Thriving?

The holidays are just around the corner!  Are you looking for that perfect gift for some special people in your life?  How about the Gift of Health?  Do you or someone you know suffer from: low energy, low mood, joint discomforts, headaches, managing your weight, or trouble sleeping?  Then the THRIVE Experience may be just what you are looking for!

As hard as we try to create a healthy food environment for our families, it can be extremely difficult due to farmlands having nutritionally depleted soil and using over-processed ingredients.  These circumstances make it almost impossible to fill all of the nutritional gaps in our bodies.

The THRIVE Experience is a new direction in simplicity.  Take two capsules before your feet hit the floor in the morning, take our THRIVE lifestyle shake mix, slap on your DFT foam, and you are done for the day!

This simple three-step system provides our bodies with over 100 synergistic vitamins, minerals, probiotics, nutrients, digestive enzymes, amino acids and antioxidants that fill those nutritional gaps in our bodies to allow us to run at an ultra premium level.

Le-Vel is redefining the term FREE, with their innovative direct sales company.  Anyone can join the Le-Vel team for free, whether it’s as a customer or a promoter. They are a Cloud-based company which allows them to invest in the highest grade ingredients available, as well as an industry leading compensation plan.

If you would like to know more about the THRIVE Experience, please visit or give Tiffanie (Independent Brand Promoter for Le-Vel) a call at 715-495-8432.

To read some amazing personal experiences, check out the Le-Vel Facebook fan page.  For more information, you can also listen to this prerecorded informational call. 1-530-881-1499 Pin 137907#”

How to Be Lovely

What does it mean to “love yourself to be lovely”?

That’s the tagline at Molly Marie Photography, a local studio founded by Molly Keyser in 2007. Molly’s studio specializes in women’s portraits—boudoir, glamour, and maternity. Unlike some other photographers, Molly doesn’t rely on Photoshop to give her clients photos they can be proud of. Instead, Molly’s mission is to empower women with the realization of their beauty through portrait sessions for which they do not need to lose 10 pounds or hide their “imperfections” to be attractive. Being lovely comes from a place much deeper than the external appearances; it stems directly from a woman’s core of confidence.

Developing this mission has been many years in the making. Several years ago, Molly struggled with self-image and began a weight loss journey. She now wants to share her personal discoveries with women who harbor similar feelings of inadequacy. “I wasn’t able to have success with my weight loss journey until I loved myself with the weight on. I wasn’t able to create more time for myself until I truly loved myself enough to create time for me.” Being lovely comes from a place of self-assuredness, of being at peace with who you are right now.

Stephanie, of north-central Wisconsin, shared her experience of learning to embrace her beauty after a glamour portrait session at Molly Marie Photography. “I was nine months pregnant with my fourth child when I scheduled my photo shoot and was honestly looking forward to my hair and makeup being done, and having a few photos taken of myself. Little did I know all the benefits that came from it. I am your average stay-at-home mom of four, and I will admit I lost myself in the shuffle of a hectic household. I felt I had let myself down in a way . . . after doing this, I realized that I am still the woman/wife I was before becoming a stay-at-home mom. I was in there, and I was smokin’ hot (who knew under those sweatpants?). I carry myself differently, and I take a few extra minutes to myself in a day, dress better, and even put a little makeup on when I stay at home. I just feel so much more confident! Don’t get me wrong . . . I still have sweatpants days, but all I do is look at my photos, smile, and things look a little brighter.”

Stephanie learned to love herself to be lovely.

“This tagline to me is so much more than just my business tagline,” Molly shares. “It’s deeper than that to me. What this means is that no matter what you’re struggling with, you have to find a way to love yourself here and now in order to be ‘lovely.’”

Take a few extra minutes for yourself today. Remember, or discover, that you are beautiful, attractive, valued, strong, and lovely now. Relish the moment and carry it with you.