October 21st, 2019

There are so many good reasons to plant cover crops between gardening seasons. Typically planted in the Fall, and worked back into the soil in the Spring, cover crops return valuable organic matter and vital nutrients back into the soil.

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

  • Reduced soil erosion and compaction during Winter
  • Improved soil structure and reduced surface crusting
  • Increased water-holding capacity of the soil
  • Addition of active organic matter to soil
  • Fixing nitrogen from the air and adding it to the soil
  • Suppression of weeds, soil diseases and pests
  • Attraction of beneficial insects

It is important to plant cover crops early in the Fall to establish root growth before cold weather sets in, helping the crops better survive a hard Winter. Planting between mid-September through the beginning of November is ideal. We currently carry these four cover crops;

ALFALFA

Establishes easily and grows very quickly. Long taproots break up compacted soil and bring up subsurface minerals. In gardens or row crop rotation, it produces plenty of top growth and a complimentary amount of root growth to incorporate as green manure. Perfect for rejuvenating worn out soils.

AUSTRIAN WINTER PEAS

Austrian Winter Peas make an excellent Winter cover crop in this area due to their adaptation to heavy wet soil. Austrian Winter Peas, also known as 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. Within a few weeks, the Austrian Field Peas should create a lush mass of foliage lasting all Winter.

  • The recommended seeding rate is 2-3 pounds per 1000 square feet

CRIMSON CLOVER

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.

  • The recommended seeding rate is 1 pound per 1000 square feet

HAIRY VETCH

A beautiful extremely cold-hardy Winter cover crop with attractive purple flowers and lacy-like foliage. Excellent as a weed suppressant, this cover crop helps repair nitrogen balance, adding vital nutrients back to the soil.