Need suggestions for cover crops

basilno(4)February 18, 2014

My husband and I are expecting twins in May. As a result, we'll be downsizing the vegetable garden this year.

I'm looking for suggestions for a cover crop that can be planted early in the season, and then ignored until next year. Weed suppression and low maintenance are the priorities (if we can also add fertility to the soil-great- but the priority is low maintenance).

At one point someone had suggested clover and oats. Would that meet our needs? If so, what kind of clover?


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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Anything you grow and do not mow at all will go to seed and become weeds. Winter rye is the easiest to pull out after that point. Otherwise plan on mowing before any cover crop goes to seed.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 9:11PM
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Natures_Nature(5 OH)

Now i'm not sure of a single cover crop you can plant in the spring all the way until the following spring without going to seed. The secret is mow it down before it goes to seed, you don't want weeds in your garden. That's really the only work you have to do, sow and mow. Sowing can be down by a simple lawn spreadr, mowing can be done with a weedwacker, lawnmower, sycle.. You could plant oats or peas in the spring, chop them down in fall, either pile enough compost/soil ontop of the chopped covercrop and plant the winter rye, or rake it up, throw it in the compost and plant the winter rye. Comes spring, wait for the rye to drop it's pollen, wack it down, plant your other peas or other cover crops. Their is tons of cover crops for all seasons, research, contact local ag ext, or even farm supply..

If you really dont want to spend the money on seeds for cover crops, you could just mulch your garden thickly, adding a layer of protection if you will. Or you could even compost ontop of your garden, like lasagna gardening, comes next spring when you want to plant, the compost would be decomposed and enriched in your native soil, perfect! Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 10:12PM
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I agree that you will need more than one crop. In spring you could grow something pretty like California poppies. In early summer switch to a big grass like Sudex (a seed sterile sudan grass/sorghum cross). It will stand until fall and you get a great crop of mulch. Or you can grow good old buckwheat, which will get out of the way in time to sow oats and daikon radishes in August. They will winterkill and hold the soil through winter.

Twins! How wonderful!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 7:58AM
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Okay- so we may need to mow it (that's not the end of the world, we'll be mowing the yard).

I really don't want to have to change crops- would like to seed with something in the spring, mow occassionally, and then turn in, either next fall or the following spring (buying seed is no problem). Whatever we choose, it should be something fairly good at weed suppression (weeding definitely won't be on the priority list this spring/summer).

What crops would you all suggest?


    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 9:02PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I would plant oats with peas [not garden type]. Then mow in August and plant tillage radishes.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 9:50PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Rye and vetch are really nice, mixed together.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 10:38PM
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gjcore(zone 5 Aurora Co)

White Dutch Clover should work okay for you. No need to replant mid-season and as long as it's mowed occasionally it shouldn't leave many seeds behind. If some does go to seed it is relatively easy to weed out the next year.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 6:42PM
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bart1(6/7 Northern VA)

Check out Pinetree Seeds. They have a lot of different cover crops, some of which are 2 or 3 year types:

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 8:07PM
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I would plant tillage radishes right away, and forget about them until 2015. The twins will be demanding.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 4:52PM
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Thanks for all the suggestions. I decided to go with red clover, ? with oats as a nurse crop? (that would suppress weeds better?)

How soon can we plant it? (there's currently 2 feet of snow on the ground, so it won't be very soon but can it be planted once the ground thaws in April? or does it need to wait until after the last frost (traditionally Memorial Day around here)?


    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 9:23PM
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