January 18th, 2018

Washington County in the spring – a farmer’s field of crimson clover.

Growing a vegetable garden is beneficial both for your soul and your fresh food supply BUT each crop depletes nutrients from the soil. Growing a cover crop, when not growing vegetables, is one way of putting some of those nutrients back into the soil.

Cover crops planted in the fall are tilled into the soil in the spring. This not only adds nutrients but the organic matter improves the texture of the soil- easier for next year’s vegetables to reach down into the soil. Think carrots and other root vegetables, or deep rooted ones like tomatoes.

Because the tilling is done before the plants go to seed in the spring yet are still alive, it is called adding green manure. Do this several weeks before planting your vegetables.

Read more for how cover crops help and what cover crops we carry this year.

Growing a cover crop benefits your garden in the following ways:

  •  Weed suppression
  •   Soil protection from rain or runoff
  •   Reduction of surface crusting
  •   Addition of active organic matter to soil
  •   Fixing nitrogen from the air and adding it to the soil
  •   Attraction of beneficial insects
  •   Suppression of soil diseases and pests

It is important to plant cover crops early in the fall to establish root growth before cold weather sets in. This helps the crops better survive a hard winter.  Planting between mid-September through the beginning of November is best.

We are carry the following cover crops.


Austrian Field Peas make an excellent winter cover crop in
this area due to their adaptation to heavy wet soil.  Austrian
Field Peas are a nitrogen fixing legume which means they
pull nitrogen from the air for their own use. This nitrogen is
then added to your soil when you till in the peas in spring.
The Austrian Field Peas should, within a few weeks, create
a lush mass of foliage that will last all winter in the
Willamette valley.



Another nitrogen fixing legume, crimson clover prefers well
drained but moist soil, perfect for our winter weather. Cool
temperatures of around 60 degrees promote germination.
While Crimson Clover likes a sunny location, it tolerates
shade. It will grow to 6-18 inches, maturing in June. For
best results, sow densely and plow into the soil 2-3 weeks
before any succeeding crop is planted.