Cover Crop??

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

Does anyone use a cover crop during the winter on their garden? If so, what are the pros/cons and what do you use as a cover crop?

Talihina, OK

for me it is always a win win thing ..I plant mustard in my main garden and in the spring I mow it close and then till it all under..In my raised beds I plant crimson clover and overseed my lawns with Crimson Clover..The main drawback to the crimson is it gets really pretty so is hard to make oneself mow it down as early as needed some years I have overseeded with Rye Grass ,but feel a little dumb out mowing the lawn in the winter LOL

Madison, AL(Zone 7b)

If I lived somewhere with a longer winter I would, but my garden will be full of many fall crops until late November and some parts will have winter hardy crops like cabbage until December. Then come February it's time to plant cool weather crops again. We have stuff that grows here in the winter, but there's nothing I'm aware of that I could plant in winter and have it sprout and grow in that short time frame.

I'm open to changing my mind, though, since I think cover cropping has many benefits for soil health, and the only downsides can be managed by cover crop choice.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

This year I am planting vetch as a cover crop in a couple of my raised vegetable beds.

It is my intention to cut the vetch low in the spring and then plant directly in the dried foliage using it as a mulch.

Used in this manner it should benefit the soil and provide mulch for moisture retention in the summer.

I will also keep the blooms cut back so it will not reseed. That is feasible in smaller areas like raised beds.

I am deliberating on planting vetch in the onion bed also and wonder if that will benefit or hurt the onions.

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

I'm trying out sun hemp in one bed and purple top turnips in another. I'm using the sun hemp as I have some left over from planting out a winter browse stand for the goats. The turnips as well, and they will feed the chickens too. All will be tilled under this spring as I am trying to build up the soil volume. I have a mix of peas, various clovers, and rye for my next winter browse project for the goats. If I have any left over I will use that too. I got all of this at the local feed co-op. They sent my soil off to be tested and it looks as if my soil if fairly neutral but what I really need is green manure for organic matter and volume and to help break up the soil after years of cattle traffic and overgraising.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Ya'll don't EAT the mustards and turnips????!!!!

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

LOL! I will eat turnips and I will mix mustard greens into a salad. But not that many! I'm doing a pretty big/long bed for the turnips so that I can feed the hens as well. They seem to lay more (especially in winter) if I feed them greens and fresh veg/fruit. The purple top turnips were cheap for a 50 lbs bag at the co-op!

Madison, AL(Zone 7b)

LOL, Linda. Every time I look at a list of winter cover crops for the South I see those and I think... "but I EAT those!"

For my new raised beds I broadcast a bunch of the radish, turnip, etc. seed I had leftover but wasn't favorites. Well, with this weather I had really excellent germination and it's so thick out there I'm not sure they'll develop good roots. I haven't felt like thinning -- the winter doldrums have come upon me soon this year -- but maybe I can re-cast my laziness as cover cropping?

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

LOLOL! ^^_^^!!!

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

I hope to get out and sow some 'cover crops' . Last year I grew-- and ate-- a lot of red giant mustard. Even up here zone 7 (maybe 8 in the one garden) it grew great all winter and really took off in spring. I decided it would be awesome to grow all over my garden, to keep the winter weeds down, and then what I can't eat, would make a great green manure.
I'm just playing a waiting game with flowers in the garden, and other cleanup, be fore getting some sort of seeds out there.

Cover crops can give you more harvest for the space, keep the weeds from sprouting, and I also read that keeping live roots in the soil can help your soil organisms.

Talihina, OK

The main reason for the mustard being at the top of my list of cover crops is that we love mustard greens so tell me more about the Giant red Mustard I grow the Florida Broadleaf as that is all that is available locally..one of my Nephews is sending me some tendergreen > this year I have even overseeded my front lawn with a mixture of crimson clover and mustard, like the looks of the broadleaf waving in the breeze Hmmm maybe it is just that something that is very edible just appeals to me..

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Giant Red is very attractive in the garden- reddish purple with green veins!. In my limited experience- Good flavor that gets pretty hot when weather heats up in spring. I did not use it for salad, just cooked greens that were very tasty in winter.

Alexandria, IN(Zone 6a)

I sowed Daikon tillage radishes in August as soon as the first five plantings of corn were done. I chop the corn while it is still green into short pieces, add some rotted horse manure, and till that up some, and then sow the radishes. They are about 18 inches tall now and will winter kill here about Christmas. I sowed another plot in early August and some more areas after they were done with their spring or summer crops.

They make a very long root and "till" the soil deeply...adding organic matter and holding nutrients till spring. I might not advise planting them where they don't winter kill...

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

I planted radish seeds (couple kinds) and spinach and komatsuna seeds last week Komatasuna was up in record time (days) and will make a green leafy cover, probably won't dieback here.
THen my big bag of spinach seed was left in the rain so I have a potential big cover crop of spinach going .
The henbit is already growing 'great' here.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Radishes seem to grow almost year round here,there are some blooming now as I type. I won't eat them now but they are "kinda purrty" blooming later than asters!!!lol
Those are in a raised bed.

Vista, CA

I planted buckwheat last Sunday morning both in my old garden and some new ground i am expanding into, and it has broken through the crust this morning, Wednesday, so it is pretty strong. Never used it before, but have heard it makes a good cover crop.
So we will see how it works.,

Ernie

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

I use FAVA BEANS as cover crop on my raised veggie garden.
Every fall/winter I use a 8" area for the Fava Beans. I love to eat the beans, the flowers and leaves of the plant too.
When the spring come and I need the room for other crops, I cut down to the soil the fava bean plants. I live their roots in the soil because they have little round pockets, which they are full of nitrogen.
As a result, anything I plant in that area grow really lush.

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Dried vetch plants do nothing for soil as the 'green' manures benefits are good only at a specific time in that plants cycle- sorry, pod- same for the crimson clovers benefits, Fava beans are a bit diff as cover crop, sunshine hemp is a new one to me. Many have winter wheat going in, or oats, but if they are late sown and don't get roots established before the soil cools and the plants go dormant, they aren't apt to survive. We do sow mustards turnips beets parsnip for cool weather then tuen under in the spring when it gets so hot they get ready to bolt. I have bronze mustard- red one is one I need to check on...

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Well they all add organic material, the point is that isn't it? After all ,healthy active soil is what we are going for?

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Yep... Juhur ~ I agree.

Kittriana ~ the article that I had read that suggested that indicated the roots adding the nitrogen and when the vines are cut and laid on the surface, they will act as a mulch for moisture retention. Any thoughts?

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

They do, tho rotation crops done by farmers turn the whole plant in, and seeds go in ground immed after sowing, so the dying plants In ground are where the nutrition for the seeds are, and the crop is one that requires the nitrogen the vetch supplied. Depends on what nutrient you needed as to type of rotation/ cover crop. Poor mans alfalfa it was called- vetch - wasn't as dependable as the fertilizers we have access to now. As far as erosion controls, the rye, oats, winter wheats crimson clovers are best, daikon radish if you are guaranteed freeze kills are an awesome chioice too, but whatever the reason, cover crops are definitely a winning situation. Grits? You gonna be mowing anyway- and the neighbors love seeing green in drab ol winterdays.

Talihina, OK

Problem with that Kitt is the mustard is a pale green never even thought about that until it stated coming among the Bermuda grass oh well I am determined to hav e something green in the front yard ...Hey I need a good soaking rain

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Wild mustard is considered a nuisance weed a bit farther north- just sayin- I think it's gorgeous among all the dead grasses, chuckl, want to try some bronze seeds?

Warrenton, VA

What about white clover?

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

As in Dutch clover? It is 50/50 kill or keep depending on what you want it for. Can choke out a lawn- tap root can reach 3' down, but as far as 60" in the right soil- which could be hard to get rid of. I prefer the crimson clovers to the Dutch, they aren't as tuff. Can provide green in the winter in southern climates.

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Crimson clover grows in a different soil than white clover, has a bit more improved uses than white- it just depends on what you need

Vista, CA

The attached picture shows the New Zealand White clover i used for cover crop and a working road between the tree rows in Idaho. It was very suitable, no diseases, no winter kill, not too invasive, and mowing it produced a lot of organic matter. It would last about the five years it took to grow out the trees, or it could be turned under sooner to build the soil.

My garden soil here does not need much nitrogen, so i planted the buckwheat this year or maximum organic.

Ernie

Thumbnail by ERNIECOPP
Talihina, OK

Okay now I have to fess up the Crimson Clover is very cheap and is totally beautiful..I can get the crimson for $70 per 50lbs same with the broadleaf mustard very cheap and I am all about cutting down on my expences wherever I can ..

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

Ernie, the bees must have loved that.

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Since so many plants can be used to accomplish the same thing - if your soils can grow them- then bottom line is using the cheapest form of cover crop you have available- bees love both clovers- and even the mustards- ernies clover lasts him 5 yrs- but might not be feasible in other situations.

Vista, CA

I am sure it was unusual to use the clover for roads the way i did, but as i dug those trees during Spring Thaw, and needed to get through the mud, and i just showed it to illustrate how versatile it was. It was developed in NZ for sheep pasture, as it produces a lot of plant material and can stand very close grazing, and i also used it for green manure where it would be plowed under at the end of the growing season. People that have goats or rabbits or chickens, etc, could get a lot of forage from it before plowing it under. It is very versatile, but with so many combinations of ground cover, moisture availability and types of soil, there are many many combinations to choose from.

Cheap is always good, but should always be evaluated on what gives the most benefit for each dollar. Or, the old phrase, "It is Never what it Costs you, it is What it makes You." It happened that the NZ was cheaper in my area than the Dutch, which it may resemble. Bees did like it, but Sweet Clover, that grew wild along the roadsides, makes the best honey.

I am liking what i see of the Buckwheat, as it was planted 9 days ago and some of it is over two inches high already. It has leaves on it, and is not grassy like regular wheat. Wild Mustard may be good for this area as it grows wild around here, but may be too tall to rototill in easily. Maybe weedwhack it before tilling it.

Ernie

Talihina, OK

Ernie keep us posted on the Buckwheat I have read many good things about it ..all of the mustard that I grow gets to tall to rototill in without mowing first Just wraps around the tines ..several years ago we had bad dust storms which is totally out of character for this part of Ok. turns it wasn't dust altogether cause come spring every roadside and fallow field was coveredwith a tall white clover >>beautiful> it flowered then died down but did not reseed and has never been back..

Thumbnail by grits74571
Vista, CA

Grits,

I agree tall plants are difficult to rototill. I have been having good luck weedwhacking 6' tall Asparagus Ferns, CA poppies, etc., before roto, just starting at the top and working down the plants. Really chops it up fine.

What the Bee Keeper called White Clover in Idaho was a tall thin plant with white flowers, sounds like your plant, that only grew along the roadsides. It was not planted commercially that i am aware of, and did not always grow in the same places every year. Not sure if that is natural or affected by County Weed Control.

I plan to mow the Buckwheat to keep it short, if ground does not get too muddy during the rainy season. If i cannot mow it, we will weedwhack it. I do not know yet how tall or viny it will get, but will keep you posted.

Ernie

Vista, CA

CORRECTION TO ABOVE POSTS.

Grits, When i was talking about the tall white flowered clover that grows along the roadside in a couple of posts above, I misspoke and called the plant "white clover", but the correct name for it up there was " Sweet Clover". Sorry if i confused anyone.
Ernie

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

You went and looked it up! Good for you, I thot abt it cuz I was curious.

Alexandria, IN(Zone 6a)

I have some New Zealand Clover in a drainage channel. It did nicely, but some of it is being over-run by what I guess is Creeping Charlie?...little purple flowers on it.

I raised some White Mustard last spring. I killed some of it off in certain spots before it got too tall. Where I left it to flower [the bees loved it], it got 4 feet tall and was a bear to deal with.

Vista, CA

Kitt,

I did not look it up, i just rememembered what the BeeKeeper called it. As i said, i do not recall seeing it used as a commercial crop.

We always called the low growing clover with white blossoms either Dutch or New Zealand, so i am not familiar with any clover being called just White Clover, probably because there are at least the three with white blossoms.

I do recall as a boy that they referred to the clover with red or purple blossoms as "Burr" clover, but i have never grown any of that, either.

Ernie

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Red clover, crimson clover are actually diff var same thing. I remember a burr clover, but not sure what I remember it being attached to...same with the whites- they can get deep if the right var... my memories arent nearly aas fresh as they should be...

Vista, CA

Kitt,

It has been nearly 80 years since i was a boy in Arkansas and Kansas, and i do not have much faith in my memory, either.

So i looked up bur or burr clover, and it is a ground cover weed, not a true clover like we have been talking about at all.

Ernie

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

The one with the little circles of spikes- a hitchhiker- yellow flower, you are
Abt my dads age- and his fields have shrunk to a raised garden and traved from Okla/Tx/NM to lower Ca, chuckl. I understand.

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