Garden Hack of the Month: Cover Crops for Vegetable Gardens

September 14, 2018

While we still have a little more time to harvest any leftover veggies, it’s a good time to start thinking about and planting cover crops. Cover crops can be planted after harvest in later summer-early fall to help improve the soil’s fertility and nutrients. They also help with soil erosion and reduce the number of weeds that pop up between now and when you go to plant your vegetable garden next year.

Summer Harvest

Getting cover crops planted now we’ll ensure that seeds can germinate before winter and grow some before winter sets in. But, don’t worry if some of them get killed off or go dormant in winter as they will still be beneficial and can be tilled into the soil in the spring for earlier crops. The cover crops that survive and continue to grow after winter ends will need to be killed by being tilled in before planting your new veggie seeds and are a good option for summer crop areas in your garden.

Cover Crop Options

Winter Rye, Annual Rye Grass, and Oats- These annual grasses should be planted in well-drained soils and they grow quickly which will help control weeds. While it won’t help fix nitrogen levels, once tilled in, in the spring it’ll provide many other nutrients for your soil. Oats should be planted earlier so it has time to germinate while winter rye and annual rye grass can be planted later if needed since they grow so quickly.

Oilseed Radish- This cover crop can help fix nitrogen levels in the soil and has the added benefit of being very easy to till back in to the soil come spring and it grows quickly. The Oilseed Radish sucks up nitrogen so well because it can reach deeper into the soil and stores it until it decomposes saving it so that nitrogen doesn’t get lost in fall and winter rains. If you have a problem with compacted soil, oilseed radish also helps because when the root decomposes, it leaves holes allowing for air to circulate and water to penetrate deeper into the ground. The foliage of this cover crop helps inhibit weed growth, as well.

Field Peas- These can be planted in spring or early fall and will grow fast. They also help fix nitrogen levels. Field peas, paired with an annual grass from above, can be a good combination for cover crops for your garden as one will control weeds and the other can work on fixing nitrogen levels.

Red Clover- Did you know that red clover is in the legume family? Not only will it provide nitrogen for your soil but also suppresses weeds and controls erosion when the fall and winter rains hit hard. You can even spread the seed among your veggies before you’re finished harvesting them to get a jump start.

Hairy Vetch- Another cover crop in the legume family, this cover crops helps with nitrogen and works well in colder climates. Hairy Vetch can be tilled in spring or even mowed down, and vegetables can be planted right in the mulch from it once it’s started breaking a down (a few weeks after mowing).

What are your go-to cover crops? Which ones have you found help your soil the most? Leave us a comment, we’d love to hear from you!

2 comments... (add a comment)

  1. Great article. We might be a little late to put this into action but we do have it bookmarked for next year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.