Cover the soil

Cover Crops

Cover crops add carbon, nitrogen, and organic matter to the soil.
Sow cover-crop seeds into annual beds in the fall. Then turn the cover- crop seedlings back into the earth in the early spring.

Catherine GatesCatherine Long Gates holds winter rye seed, planted as a cover-crop to improve the soil in this field at Long's Gardens.

Common Cover-Crops for Front Range Gardeners

Winter Rye, Hairy Vetch,
Austrian Winter Pea

Plant mid-September to
In Spring, till in one month before planting crops
Reduces erosion, fixes nitrogen and carbon, and improves soil texture

Medics and Clovers: Crimson, Red, Sweet, White
Plant in Spring after last frost, innoculate seed with rhizobium
Till in two weeks before planting crops; may require more than one tilling
Fixes nitrogen and carbon, improves soil texture

Plant mid-May through July
In the Fall, till in, or allow the frost to kill and leave as a winter mulch
Provides weed suppression, bee forage, quick erosion control, good for low fertility soils, fixes nitrogen and carbon, and improves soil texture.


It's easy to make compost in your own garden if you have a little space. It's also easy to put garden waste into your Western Disposal organics bin bi-weekly, and then buy some great compost at their Trash and Recycle Center, 5880 Butte Mill Road, Boulder.

Grinder in action

A huge grinder chops yard waste and wood scraps at the Western Compost Yard near Stazio ball fields. The material is shaped into windrows, watered and turned frequently. Six to eight months later, it is fully processed compost and ready to sell.


Wood chip mulches conserve soil moisture, suppress weeds, and add carbon to your soil. Minimize rock or gravel mulches: they can make air and soil hotter. Do NOT use clear or black plastic under mulch. Use landscape fabric instead so water and air can enter the soil.

Mulch pile Boulder, like many cities, provides free mulch made from yard waste to home gardeners. The mulch is self-load and contains some weed seeds.