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Gardener shares perfect winter plant that gives back to your soil as it grows: 'Now is the time to plant'

"There's no need to go out and buy fertilizer or store-bought vegetables."

"There’s no need to go out and buy fertilizer or store-bought vegetables."

Photo Credit: TikTok

Nitrogen is one of the most vital things your plants glean from the soil to grow big and strong, so it's important to ensure there is plenty of it to go around.

TikToker Erin (@newcastlefarmgirl) has shared a trick that replenishes her soil over the winter, which also gives her something to harvest come springtime. 

What's the scoop?

In her TikTok video, Erin reveals that she plants peas in her garden beds every January, meaning they will sprout through spring and summer.

@newcastlefarmgirl You'll find peas frowing in all my @Vego Garden beds in soring and early summer - now is the time to plant if you have mild winters. Happy new year! #vegogarden #2024garden #gardentips ♬ original sound - Erin

This benefits the crops she plants in the spring, she says, because peas are "givers," helping to restore the balance of nitrogen in the soil as they grow.

She shares that one useful technique is to plant your peas around the edge of the flower bed as it leaves room for other plants to join the soil later in the year. That way, your peas and other plants can grow simultaneously

"Now is the time to plant if you have mild winters," she wrote in a caption.

How it's helping

Pea pods are a type of legume that farmers have long valued for their ability to stimulate nitrogen in the soil. 

Although nitrogen exists in the atmosphere, many plants are not able to process it from the air — they need to ingest it from the soil instead.

Legumes interact with microorganisms in the soil called rhizobia, creating an environment that allows the bacteria to convert atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen compounds. 

Planting nitrogen-fixing legumes, then, is one straightforward way to restore nitrogen levels without using fertilizers, which have been linked to several negative climate impacts.

For one thing, the production of synthetic fertilizers is responsible for 1.4% of the world's annual carbon pollution. Long-term use of these fertilizers can also lead to declining soil health — the complete opposite effect of what they are intended for. 

Using nitrogen-fixing legumes as a cover crop is known as spreading "green manure" because it acts as a natural composting system that rejuvenates, rather than stresses, your soil.

Then there's the added bonus that planting legumes means planting your own food, which will fill your fridge with healthy greens once fully grown. 

This can help cut your grocery and gardening bills. There's no need to go out and buy fertilizer or store-bought vegetables if you're growing legumes in your garden. Further, studies have shown that gardening can be good for mental health in addition to its physical benefits.

What everyone's saying

TikTokers were eager to try Erin's gardening hack and quizzed her for additional tips. 

When asked what she considers a "mild" winter, Erin clarified: "No multi-day freezes typically. I'm in zone 9."

And regarding how often she waters her peas, she said: "Hardly at all - it's the rainy season for me so they get a lot of natural watering."

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