Landscaping & Nursery Information for Home Gardeners


Cover crops or green manure crops are plants sown to enrich the soil when plowed or tilled under at a later date. Organic matter is added to the soil as well as the potential for nutrients such as nitrogen. An added benefit is reducing soil erosion during winter months due to blowing winds. Legumes used as green manure crops can provide a significant amount of nitrogen to gardens the following year.

Typically, cover crops are sown in the fall and rototilled under the following spring. However, fallow ground can be covered with plant material for a year or more before plowing under.

Crops should be chosen carefully to avoid a potential weed problem down the road. While the crop can be plowed under, it may set seed or reproduce through root cuttings.

Common winter cover crops include: rye, wheat and ryegrass. Most are sown between August and September to allow for fall growth.

Summer cover crops include oats, soybeans and buckwheat.

Other plants used for cover crops include alfalfa, clover (red, alsike, alyce, crimson, sweet), barley, bromegrass, lespedeza. Most are sown in the early spring and plowed under in the fall.

Mowers are used to cut the crop prior to tilling in. Go over the crop several times with a rototiller to incorporate the green crop thoroughly into the soil.

See: Buckwheat

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