Winter Cover Crops for Better Soil

| 7/9/2012 10:21:00 AM

Tags: better soil, cover crops, overwintering,

I’m looking for a winter cover crop to improve my soil for next season. What are the best choices?Winter Cover Crops 

Planting a winter cover crop is a great way to store solar energy through the off-season in your soil and build fertility for the following year. Cover crops can improve soil texture, boost organic matter, prevent erosion, suppress weeds, and provide food and shelter for beneficial insects.

In general, there are two basic types of winter cover crops:

1) Those that grow vigorously in fall but are easily killed by cold temperatures (such as oats and barley, in most regions).

2) Those that survive winter cold and resume growth in spring (such as field peas, winter rye and hairy vetch).

The first kind is relatively easy to manage in spring, and you can then plant the area immediately with an early garden crop, such as carrots or peas. The trade-off is that you must sow these covers earlier to get adequate growth before the plants are killed by the cold. Oats, for example, should be sown by early September in the North and a few weeks later in the South.

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