by Jennifer Poindexter
Are you interested in growing a cover crop which you can harvest from, too? Soybeans could be the right crop for you. In my area, soybeans are a common crop amongst the larger farmers. They grow them as an ingredient in livestock feed.
However, soybeans can also be used to add nutrients to your soil. Plus, they produce pods. When harvested in their immature state, they’re known as edamame. If adding nutrients to your soil and receiving a potential product from this crop sounds amazing to you, come along with me. I’ll walk you through all you should know when raising soybeans as a cover crop.
Growing Conditions for Soybeans
Soybeans are a warm weather crop. They also have a few specifics which must be met in their growing area.
This cover crop should be planted where it will receive full sun. The other specific need is that soybeans must be planted in well-draining soil.
When planting in well-draining soil, it allows water to reach the roots but quickly drain away. This is vital to ensure the plant receives what it needs without being left in a consistently soggy state.
By providing proper lighting and soil to soybeans, you should be able to start this crop on the right foot.
How to Plant Soybeans
There are two ways to plant soybeans. Regardless of how you choose to plant this crop, always wait until all threat of frost is over.
As mentioned earlier, soybeans love warm weather and aren’t frost-tolerant. Make sure the weather has warmed, for the season, prior to planting this crop.
The first method of planting soybeans is to plant them in rows. The rows should be approximately three feet wide and have two feet of space between each row.
Don’t concern yourself so much with how much space is between each plant. You want soybeans to be compact in their growing space.
The other method to growing soybeans is by casting the seeds into the growing area. You should till up the area where you’re planting soybeans.
Once this is accomplished, toss the soybeans into the area. Lightly cover them but be sure the soybeans aren’t planted deeper than an inch or two in the soil.
The great thing about soybeans is if you have a vegetable crop that doesn’t do very well, you can remove the failing crop.
Once removed, plant soybeans. They will protect your garden from weeds and pests, who will try to move in where the failing crop resided.
Now that you understand how to plant soybeans, it’s time to learn how to care for this cover crop properly.
Caring for Soybeans
Soybeans are a low-maintenance crop that offer a lot of flexibility in your garden. The main things you must understand, to care for this crop, are how to water adequately and when to terminate the crop.
When watering soybeans, it’s best to practice the deep watering method. This crop only needs approximately one inch of water per week.
If you practice deep watering, it means you apply more water to your crops for a longer period of time. However, you water fewer days of the week.
This ensures, when the water fully saturates the ground, it reaches the roots during the initial watering. As time goes by, between watering sessions, the roots will dig deeper into the soil to find more water.
By doing this, it encourages stronger root systems and healthier plants. It’s also worth noting that soybeans won’t need to be fertilized when growing in your garden.
Now that you know how to properly water your crops, let’s discuss when you should terminate soybeans for cover crop use.
You can allow soybeans to fully mature prior to termination. We’ll discuss this a little later in this article. However, if you’re growing soybeans for cover crop use only, you should terminate the crop as soon as it begins to form seed pods.
Keep in mind, this should occur in about a month’s time. Soybeans reach maturity in approximately two months’ time.
When you decide to terminate the crop, use a tiller to till the plants into the soil. You should do this at least two weeks before planting your next crop.
Take all of this information into consideration when caring for your soybean crop and timing your gardens throughout the year.
Pests and Diseases Which Can Impact Soybeans
Soybeans aren’t commonly infested with many pests and diseases. However, if they are going to be impacted, it’s usually by fungal diseases such as downy mildew.
If this occurs, you should decrease the amount of water being supplied to the crop. It’s also wise to thin the plants to increase airflow around them.
You should be sure the soil is draining adequately, and treat the crop with a fungicide. The most common pests to attack soybeans are aphids, grasshoppers, bean leaf beetles, and Japanese beetles.
These pests typically attack the foliage of the plant and should be treated with an insecticide specifically formulated to treat these pests.
By staying alert to these potential threats, you should be able to catch any issues early, and save your crop from total destruction.
How to Harvest Soybeans
You can terminate soybeans before they ever reach maturity. It’s okay to do this because they can still provide benefits to your garden without reaching this final stage.
However, some gardeners like to take advantage of the harvest prior to termination. If you’re one of these gardeners, you have two choices.
You can harvest soybeans for edamame or to save seeds for the next year’s planting. If you’re trying to harvest edamame, you must watch your crop.
When the bean pod, on the plant, has filled out about 75% of the way, it’s time to harvest for edamame. The pod should be a deep green color.
If you’d rather harvest the pod for future seed, allow the bean pod to fill out all the way. Pick the pod from the plant, and allow it to dry fully.
After the pod has dried, crack it open, remove the seeds, and ensure they’re dried thoroughly. Once everything is dry, store the beans for next season’s planting in an airtight container.
These are a few ways you can utilize the products of the soybean plant prior to terminating the crop for cover crop use.
Benefits of Growing Soybeans
We’ll end our time, in the discussion of soybeans, by discovering what they can do for your garden. Soybeans are great for protecting your soil from erosion.
It’s also a wonderful way to deter weeds from taking over a bare spot in your garden plot. Plus, once you till the plant back into the soil, it’s a natural source of nitrogen.
If any of this sounds appealing to you, soybeans might be the right cover crop for your area.
This concludes everything you must know to grow soybeans. It should also help you decide if this cover crop is the right choice for you.
Hopefully, you feel well prepared to take on this new adventure around your garden. It could be an excellent way to add nutrients to your soil to keep your garden healthy.