Late Summer and Fall Intercropping of Cover Crops in Vegetable Crops, aka Undersowing


I wrote about Intercropping – Companion planting that really works! in April and Intercropping Vegetables in Late Spring and Early Summer, aka Relay Planting in June. Now we have reached summer, many of us will be thinking in terms of establishing winter cover crops, rather than planting lots more food crops.

The principles of intercropping can apply here too. Instead of tilling up the soil after the last food crop, in some cases you can sow your cover crop while the vegetable crop is still in the ground.


Advantages of undersowing cover crops:

• Increased organic matter for the soil, because the cover crop has longer to grow, compared to sowing after the food crop is finished.
• Increased choice of winter cover crop, including more opportunities to use oats, which readily winter-kills, making for an easier start next spring.
• A way of being able to have a winter cover crop after a very late vegetable crop. Much better than leaving bare soil! Better organic farming!
• More opportunities to include legumes for adding nitrogen to the soil.
• A way of capturing nutrients not used by the food crop and storing them over the winter.
• Reduced tillage, reduced fossil fuel use, a more sustainable farming method.
• Overhead irrigation does double duty: waters the vegetable and the cover crop.
• Reduced erosion: the vegetable crop holds the soil together while the cover crop gets established.
• Better weed control, therefore higher yields of your home grown vegetables.
• Better pest control, better-looking produce and more of it.
• More habitat for beneficial insects.
• An earlier sense of relief at getting the plots “put to bed” for the year.


Fall broccoli showing small clover cover crop.

8/17/2021 4:48:34 PM

Oats and especially wheat over winter in my zone therefore feed the soil all winter and the chickens when the heads ripen. Cut the stalks at the ground and throw it to them and they do the work of threshing and preparing it for mulch.

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