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Anybody grow cover crops?


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I'm evaluating cover crops to sow in my garden beds when ground is going to be empty for a while.

I'm considering buckwheat and rye, (the grain kind, not the annual lawn kind.)


Does anyone use cover cropping in their garden to improve soil and provide a mulch? I would love to know the situations that you utilize it in, after what crop do you sow a particular kind. Also, report any problems you experienced.



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I haven't done it, yet, but I have a supply of rye seed for that very purpose that I will use this fall.


Our country extension agent recommends sowing it in the fall, and then after it grows a few inches in the spring, tilling it under. We have a lot of clay in this area. The green mulch is known to improve the soil texture as well as add nutrients.

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Be careful with buckwheat. It flowers quickly and reseeds just as fast. It can become a weed if you're not careful. Take it from experience. ;)


Clover is also good for clay soil. We used to grow it and cut it for our rabbits. Sometimes we would plant it in the pathways. The next year we would till the path and plant veggies there. It kept the mud and other weeds at bay. It was easier than raised beds in the half-acre garden. :happy0203:



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  • 2 months later...

A good book for this topic is Eliot Coleman's "New Organic Grower". There is a good, basic description of use of cover crops in vegetables. Another good book is a small book by Anne and Eric Nordell who run an organic CSA in the Northeast. They have a LOT of good info regarding the big picture, including but not limited to cover crops/rotations, keeping soil weed free by feeding the soil, varieties, etc. If you can't find that book on the net you can look up Small Farmer's Journal and order it from them.


Depending on how much land you are using and how long the land is out of rotation, we really like buckwheat. It is probably the fastest soil builder there is for our climate. I LOVE HUMUS! :wub: It will reproduce itself easily, but if your land is out of rotation for a year, you can let it purposefully seed and then mow it and till it 3 x before frost and all you paid for seed was whatever you paid for the first batch of seed. It can be a weed but it pulls out really easy. Plus, if you save the piece of ground for late veggies that had buckwheat the year before, you can till it down 5-6 x before you even plant and it decreases ALL your weed load, and gives you just that much more green matter into the soil in the Spring. SYNERGY!!!!!


In my opinion, Rye is only good if you live somewhere it winter kills. Unless it winter kills in your area, you can wind up with rye that made it through the Winter in your garden and that stuff can be incredibly difficult to break up and get worked into the soil if you have Spring rains. It forms big lumps of very dense, very THICK sod. It can totally derail your garden plans/progress. If you plant rye, MAKE SURE at the extension office or somewhere that it will FOR SURE Winterkill, unless wet Springs are not possibly an issue. I am unwilling to ever take the chance again of delaying a garden by a number of WEEKS.


Also, our bees love buckwheat and we love buckwheat honey.

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  • 2 months later...

Well, weeds can be a useful covercrop. They help prevent erosion.


I let the dandelions that have come up in the garden stay where they are as long as they're not in the way. I start snipping leaves off in the fall for my omlettes each morning. In spring, I dig up what's left before it goes to seed and throw them to the chickens. Nature will sow plenty more.

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