B-e A-g-g-r-e-s-s-i-v-e, But Not Too Aggressive: Planting and Control of A Cover Crop

cover crop-shovelIn order to get the most benefit from a cover crop for your soil, you have to plant it, cultivate it, and then, when its looking so lush, lovely and full of blooms, you gotta kill it.  That’s right – you heard me – kill it.  Before it goes to seed, you mow it/cut it down, turn it over, and work it into your soil.

lambConsider it the sacrificial lamb of gardening.

The How-to.  Kill the cover crop at flowering or when the seedheads emerge on grains.  If you don’t kill the cover crop before it goes to seed, it will often spread, and then you might find yourself with a cover crop that is now an aggressive weed.  

red-cloverAfter you’ve cut the crop down, wait a day or two until the leaves and stems dry a bit, and then dig them in.   Now wait 2 to 3 weeks before planting vegetables or flowers because the decomposition of the green material temporarily ties up the nitrogen.

Depending on your climate, gardening goals and the time of year, there is a variety of cover crop options. Cover crop species vary widely in their tolerance of cold, heat, soil moisture extremes and soil types.  I have added two Cover Crop Selection Tools to the Resources page under Problem Solving to help you decide what crop(s) might be right for your garden.

Easy to grow cover crops.  Rye, Field Peas/Oats, Sorghum, Buckwheat and Clover.