These warm season crops grow rapidly, thus foiling weed growth while protecting bare soil from crusting and water erosion. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Vetch also helps prevent erosion and has pretty purple flowers in the early spring that the bees love . But I hate having a lawn, so I’m fine with it. Many gardeners add compost, manure and other organic materials to enrich the soil, but another method is by planting veggie garden cover crops. I think it’s because they like colder winters than my mild South Carolina can give them. Along with green manure types of cover crops, there are a large variety of choices for the home gardener. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. 2019 fall: I used the same cover crops since 2015. Yesterday as I pulled up weary tomato plants and lugged them to the compost pile, I considered my options for the empty bed. I’ll also explain some of the more popular types of cover crops, how they differ from each other, how to plant cover crops, and what you need to do to those cover crops in the spring. A main obstacle to cover crops for the home gardener is proper decomposition. It only takes about 40 days to plant, bloom, and incorporate into the soil, so it’s a quick warm-weather cover crop option. The leaves spread out from the small root clump to protect the rest of the soil. Annual Ryegrass is one of the most winter-hardy cover crops. Cover crops in the garden improve the soil’s physical structure and fertility. per 1000 sq.ft. ), How to Prevent Weeds from Stealing Your Gardening Joy. I will be planting them in half of my raised beds and using my other raised beds to grow my fall garden. Amend the soil with compost or well rotted manure at the rate of 20 pounds per 100 square feet or add a 15-15-15 fertilizer at the rate of 1 pound per 100 square feet. While grasses do NOT increase nitrogen in the soil (like legume cover crops), they DO help with erosion issues as well as weed prevention. Cover crops are plants used to maintain and improve the soil quality of gardens and fields. You can typically plant cover crops any time your garden beds are empty from August until late November (depending on your garden zone and if you’re in the midst of your deep freezes/snows already…then you might be too late). Some cover crops are tough enough to create and retain nutrients all through the winter, helping prepare your soil for hungry seedlings come spring. Winter Peas are a very cold-hardy legume cover crop. If you plan on tilling or shoveling the cover crops into the soil, make sure you do this 3-5 weeks before you plant your spring garden. Image source: Pixabay.com. If, however, you plant a cover crop such as rye, which will begin growth again in the spring, it will need to be tilled under prior to planting the vegetable garden. While your garden soil is lying dormant, cover crops can prevent your precious dirt from becoming unproductive. They are plants that are grown to suppress weeds, help build and improve soil, … They increase organic matter but not nitrogen. Winter peas are a great livestock/poultry fodder choice. ). Find more gardening information on Gardening Know How: Keep up to date with all that's happening in and around the garden. They can spread a bit aggressively: I have found them taking over my lawn. In this episode we cover everything there is to cover about cover crops! After you turn it under, plant warm-season vegetables, bedding plants or container-grown perennials. A cover crop is a crop you grow for the soil, instead of for your plate. They also help prevent weeds from taking over your garden, since they spread out nice and thick. You should pick them based on your climate, what will be planted in that location next season (see: crop rotation guide for suggestions), and the specific characteristics of each type of cover crop (can you feed it to livestock, etc.). 5. 2015 fall: I am going to be planting Hairy Vetch, Winter Peas, and Winter Rye. Crimson Clover is a legume cover crop that not only keeps weeds at bay but also fixes nitrogen issues in the soil. Planting Cover Crops. My personal opinion: I have not tried winter wheat. Most-used legume cover crops for the garden include crimson clover, hairy vetch and cowpeas. Learn about soil amendments here. Hairy vetch produces so much top growth that it’s very difficult to turn over without a strong mower. Cover crops for the garden is an often overlooked way to improve the vegetable garden. Sow anytime from August through October. ), or you can till or shovel the cover crops into your garden soil. 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