Sow a Cover Crop

Gardener’s Notebook

Fava plants grow three-to-five feet in three months! You can eat their greens like spinach and their inner seeds (not the pods) after cooking.
Photos by Joshua Burman Thayer


Too many holiday visitors hanging around the house? Get the team outside to tend the earth in a family affirmation of healthy food! December is prime time for planting an edible ground cover to nourish and protect your soil and also create some good food for the table. By planting these easy-to-sow cover crops now, you can sit back and enjoy weekly harvests through our cool Bay Area winter months.

Joshua’s favorite cover crop mix to protect and loosen the soil:

Fava beans, ‘Windsor’ variety
Sugar peas, ‘Oregon’ variety

Organic and non-GMO seeds are always best, and can be found at your local nursery (or order online here).

How to prepare your cover crop plot:

A young farmer preps a cover crop area by amending compost and then raking level before sowing the seeds.

First weed the area you want to plant, then rake it out until it’s level.

For broad beans like fava, make holes in the soil with your finger—about an inch deep and four to five inches apart—placing 1 seed in each hole. For peas, push into the soil a nail deep and plant two inches apart. For arugula and radish, use your fingertip to scrape a line a quarter-inch deep and lay seeds into the mini-trench.

Cover all with a light dusting of an organic O.M.R.I. (Organic Materials Review Institute)–certified planting mix or worm castings. Then water the area and keep moist if there is no rain. Two weeks later, you might want to mulch lightly around the seedlings with hay straw.


This Gardeners Notebook is one of Joshua Burman Thayer’s monthly columns for this newsletter, East Bay Appetizer. He also contributes longer articles for Edible East Bay’s print magazine, all archived at Look for Joshua’s food forest article in the Spring 2018 issue of Edible East Bay, and check out his design site: