Experience With Cover Crops?

I am a four year gardener but this will only be my second year planting cover crops. So a couple of questions...

  1. Should we mix up our cover crops and plant different varieties each year? I purchased the same variety for both years only because I like its winter kill characteristic (Winter Peas and Oats mix). Since it grows well in the cool temps of Fall it fills in well. But as soon as colder temps show up, it dies back, I cut it down and then leave it as ground cover for the Winter. As soon as the soil can be worked, usually still during the Winter I can start to work it as long as we did not have too much snow and ice, I fork it under and let the warming temps of Spring help it to decompose for a few weeks. This way I can still get my cool season crops in the ground before Spring is over.

So am I doing this right or should I change up my program? Anyone know?


  • chimboodle04
    chimboodle04 Posts: 286 ✭✭✭

    Do whatever works is what I have learned :) I have tried hairy vetch planted in fall which overwintered and was cut back in spring, dried, and used as that seasons mulch. I have used diakon radish in fall to drill compacted soil which winter-killed and fed the soil. Right now I have some buckwheat in that is blooming and providing fall forage for the bees - it too will winterkill and I will use it as a plant-through mulch in the spring. I like experimenting with different things in different beds depending on how much time I have in that bed from when the last crop is harvested and the first frost arrives, or looking ahead at what will be planted there next year and what I may need to amend the soil. Sounds like what you are doing is working fine - and I may try that combo next year! :) Do you usually follow it with any specific crop that really takes well to those two as a soil conditioner???

  • greyfurball
    greyfurball Posts: 591 ✭✭✭✭

    @chimboodle04 I chose this variety only because of its capability to winterkill.

    I'm one of those impatient gardeners and I don't want to wait around until April-May for most of the varieties to bloom and then we can chop and drop. I often have my cool season crops in and under row cover by the time early-mid March gets here. So if I had to wait until May to plant, I'd get no early season crops because our Spring now seems to start one week in May and then two weeks later it gets too hot.

    According to so many which decry there is no such thing as climate change, I often think they should talk to a farmer/gardener. We can explain the difference in the types of climate we see from year to year.

    As for which crops which do well, nitrogen-lovers do fabulous with this type of cover crop. Leafy greens, spinach, snow peas etc. love following this cover crop. I do use buckwheat during the growing season itself just as a filler if I harvest an area but I'm not ready to fill it again with another seed. Then when the surrounding area has all been harvested and I'm ready to plant again the buckwheat gets chopped down and worked in. That has worked well for me mainly to keep my bare soil covered until it's time to get that area working again with a new crop.

    I was just wondering though if I could increase the effectiveness of another variety if I would change them up. It would just have to be one of the winterkill varieties though.