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Cover Crop Trials

December 14th, 2015

I’m writing an article for a magazine about using cover crops in the small garden. In order to have great recommendations, I’m doing cover crop trials this winter to see which options offer the best cover in winter and the most weed free seed bed in spring. When I was out in the garden yesterday I noticed the only cover crop that was still lush and green was the crimson clover.
Cover Crop Trials
Of the other varieties I tried, most were killed by frost months ago and are already starting to break down. It looks like crimson clover is going to get high marks for soil protection throughout the winter. I also love that it provides a little extra green in the garden when most plants are brown.

Do you utilize cover crops in your garden? Which is your favorite to use over the winter?

10 Comments to “Cover Crop Trials”
  1. bonnie knox on December 14, 2015 at 9:09 am

    I have used crimson clover, buckwheat, and winter rye. I would usually allow the crimson clover to bloom because it is so beautiful, though, I suppose the ideal thing would be to till it under before it blooms.

    Reply to bonnie knox's comment

    • Susy on December 16, 2015 at 6:48 pm

      It is, though I usually let some flower because it is quite lovely!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. Erika on December 14, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Last year my crimson clover was spotty at best. I love oats and daikon radish for fall cover cropping because they leave little to no residue and a nice planting bed in the spring. I don’t know if I will ever use winter rye again as it is too resistant in the spring in my garden. I love buckwheat for its ability to grow quickly and crowd out a lot of weeds between plantings throughout the growing season.

    Reply to Erika's comment

    • Susy on December 16, 2015 at 6:47 pm

      Rye can be an issue, luckily my pigs always do a dandy job of tilling it in during the spring.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  3. Susan on December 14, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    I use both Hard Winter Wheat and Rye. I garden in raised beds and our climate is mild so these both make it through the cooler days and nights.

    Reply to Susan's comment

  4. Robin Follette on December 14, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    I use a lot of Dutch white clover. The deer are eating it in the food plot, it’s adding nitrogen to the soil, smothering the Hairy Galinsoga, and covering the soil. In the spring I’ll till under four foot strips along the sides of the high tunnels and plant them in Dutch white. It helps keep rhizomes from spreading into the tunnel and attracts bees. I need to reseed the paths in the garden in the spring when I start using the redesign of the vegetable garden.

    Reply to Robin Follette's comment

  5. Julia at Home on 129 Acres on December 14, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    As a first-time vegetable gardener, I’m just learning about cover crops. I’d love to hear your experiences when you’re ready to share.

    Reply to Julia at Home on 129 Acres's comment

  6. Nebraska Dave on December 15, 2015 at 12:14 am

    Susy, my cover cover crops are used indirectly during the summer months. I have two vacant lots that I mow for the grass and in the fall leaf/grass mixture. Both lots have clover growing in the grass. I pile on the leaf/grass mixture during the Fall and cover the raised beds during the summer with a continuous light covering. If I want to rejuvenate a bed. I will bury a thick layer of grass clover mix about a foot under the soil. It takes a bit of work but when those plant roots hit the high nitrogen grass and clover, it’s like rocket fuel. They green up and jump out of the ground and just keep on growing and producing. It’s the greatest free fertilizer ever. I like vacant lots because no one contaminates the grass with chemicals.

    Have a great green fertilizer day.

    Reply to Nebraska Dave's comment

  7. Jennifer Fisk on December 15, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    This year, I have two spaces growing cover crops. I know it is Peas and Oats but the third thing escapes me.Regardless, it appears to be doing pretty well.

    Reply to Jennifer Fisk's comment

  8. Kathy on December 23, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    I use hairy vetch as my cover crop and it stays green all winter, even through snow. Last year, the tomatoes that grew in that spot after the hairy vetch were phenomenal!

    Reply to Kathy's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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