Wednesday, October 31, 2012

5 Common Cover Crops and When You Should Use Them

  1. Clover: everyone recognizes clover as the symbol of luck. It is also a great fall cover crop for your garden because it adds nitrogen to the soil while it grows. It is slow growing, so try mixing it with another fall seed to act as a nurse crop. There are several different kinds of clover, including crimson, red, white and alsike. Avoid alsike if you have animals like horses that will graze it- it can be toxic to them.
  2. Rye: this is a cold tolerant grain, different from Annual Ryegrass (also a cover crop). Plant in fall for good stabilization of soil and to hang on to nitrogen. A good companion nurse crop with clover. Make sure to wait at least two weeks after turning under to plant vegetables due to allelopathy.
  3. Field Peas: a spring cover crop, field peas will also add nitrogen to the soil.
  4. Oats: better as a spring planted crop or a nurse crop that will die back over winter in places that experience extreme cold. Grows quickly to out-compete weeds
  5. Buckwheat: great for late spring or summer plantings. Scavenges soil for phosphorus and calcium, two important plant minerals. Short lived but grows quickly.
For a list of organic seed suppliers or four good reasons to use cover crops in a sustainable organic garden or farm, read my recent post Let's Talk Cover Crop.
Buckwheat cover crop

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