Got Rye? cover crop seed available

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I just bought five pounds of "fall rye" seed and two pounds of a mix called "Soil Builder Cover Crop". I'm going to try both, to cover some new raised beds through the winter, to improve the new soil.

And I'm going to see if they can do any good for the pile of clay I excavated from under those beds. This is a partially shady area - I wonder if any of them will perform well.

Can anyone suggest what kind of winter cover crop would be hurt least by shade, and survive in very heavy clay (say, with the top few inches lightened a little with compost and sand, to help them sprout and root).

Would anyone like a little Fall Rye or mixed cover crop seed? Like a half-pound?

Maybe see which works best in your area.


Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Rick, no one had yet answered your question, so I did a google-search on your question. Don't think that the shade-part is exactly answered, but there's some info on cover crops for planting into and improving clay soils.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Good threads, thank you! It sounds like I should look into fava beans, but if they need 1/2-decent or 1/4-decent soil, not this year for them!

If "Fall Rye" is the same as "Winter Rye", and I am pretty sure they are two names for one thing, I'm already planning on following the second-best suggestion.

I think red or crimson clover was sugested for colder zones, I fear they might be perrenial in Zone 8a.

Thank you!

After germinating and tryiong to grow tiny-se3eded perennials under lights, Fall Rye and t6his cover-crop mix are pleasures to test-sprout on coffee filters. 1-2 days later, they are trying to climb out of the dish and walk to the back yard to plant themsleves.



Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Rick, I looked back in my files and I think I bought the same product as you last year, at least as far as the "Soil Builder Cover Crop." I purchased the organic version from Peaceful Valley Co. and was very happy with how it improved my veggie garden soil. I'm no soil expert, but I think that cover crops that fix nitrogen in the soil can't help but be an improvement!
Good luck with your mighty seeds! ;-)

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

It sounds as if Fall Rye and Winter Rye are two names for one thing. Someone was asking for seed-sprotuing suggestions for a second-grade class, and I suggested these as the "easy and fast" seed for short attention spans. How about penstemon or Asclepias for difficult and slow?!

GardenWeb is great, I just signed up.

I'm wondering if I can plant bulbs AND a cover crop in the same year, if I am careful about turning over the rye sod in very early spring before the crocuses come up. Or can they force their way through the rye?

Annoyingly, I remember researching cover crops many years ago, and found references that ranked them by things like shade tolerance, clay tolerance, drought tolerance, mineral scavanging power, nitorgen requriements ... and my notes are "somewhere" in "one of those cardboard boxes".

One auther went through all the tradeoffs, then said "but let me whisper one word in your ear: 'alfalfa'!" It seems to need well-drained soil, and best if you can let it grow for a few years, assuming you want lots of biomass in the roots. And "heavy clay" is the problem I'm trying to solve by adding organics.

I'm thinking that for "fast" I want buckwheat or rye. And Winter Rye seems right for this time of year. And it was on sale, 69 cents per pound!

Maybe this winter, mif the rain is heavy enoguh and days are short enough, I can go through all those boxes and find my notes. Unfortunately, when I pack to move, there is never enough time to organize and label.



Seems to me your rye will be just fine. I like the beans but our winter is to short and secondly the deer liked them to death do us part in my area. Unless you set the crocus really deep I'm afraid you will murder them with the tiller putting down the winter rye next spring. Rule of thumb on the crocus is 3X the bulb diameter deep or a tad less than three inches deep. Run the mulch about three inches deep if you have the material to work with next spring and summer. Both the compost being made 24/7 under mulch and your cover settling into that small but important compost layer will provide natural NPK and attract the worms which add their casts and open up your clay zones too for better drainage and tracking options for your roots. Those worms line the hole ways with biological slime. Any organic matter unfinished will be broken down by the biology in the slime. Doing all of this makes a 24 /7 biological factory good any way you weigh it.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> Unless you set the crocus really deep I'm afraid you will murder them with the tiller putting down the winter rye next spring.

I was thinking of just "scalping" the cover rye with a hoe or scuffle hoe, and moving the green tops to my compost heap, leaving the roots and bulbs undisturbed. Hopefully, being an annual, it won't come back.

Now that I think it rhoguh, I could just cut or mow the tops, if the bulbs can push their way through. I've heard that people plant doffodils in thier lwans.

Would it be likely to work better if I put daffodils rather than crocuses under the rye?

This is targetted at a few square yards of clay-pile.



The primary reason for a cover crop is to till in lots of organic top material to breakdown with the root masses. It is this over winter act that really builds soil. The mulch as indicated in my last post puts the icing on the cake. Rule of thumb: Never let your soil see the light of day. Keep it covered with crops, cover crops and mulch. If you have compost you can bring small amounts of it into the total which will support and strengthen your native biology allready in your soil. Don't forget to put a little native soil into your compost makings. Your native soil has some biology that can become an improving part of your compost. Build the soil in a flower bed for a year or two and then plant your bulbs and plants for a much better result.

Mulch and use a little compost on your existing beds for a building program. Use coffee grounds in the mulch for a real super booster to your soil building program.

Did I mention stopping the use of man made fertilizers. This is a major key act. It makes no sense to do all these other nice things for your soil biology and then turn around a nuke it with harsh chemicals of any kind.

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

I'm with docgipe on this one (well, on lots of things)--the point of planting cover crops is to till the organic material nicely into the soil ! And planting bulbs into an area that will be tilled in the spring is risking destroying the bulbs, IMHO. But I can sympathize with your wanting to beautify the bed a bit with bulbs--unfortunately, cover crops aren't going to look like much of anything except a (sort of straggly in my case) cover crop.

Around here one of the hopeful signs of early spring is the sight of crocus-bestrewn lawns around the old Cape houses. The bulbs have naturalized for so many years that the emerging lawns literally turn pale lavender. Nobody ever mows the lawns until the crocus have had their day and the foliage has died back.

Thanks, by the way, for starting this interesting thread!

Thumbnail by CapeCodGardener
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I agree that turning under the whole cover crop (roots and tops) would add more organics to the soil, which it needs badly. That's what I plan to do with the "hill" of clay I'm gradually amending, and some small annual beds.

And I agree that tilling (either roto-tilling or turning with spade and fork) would chop any bulbs to pieces.

And I agree that covering the "new" soil through fall and winter is very desirable.

But I've amended these new beds somewhat already, with aged steer manure and as many bags of sand as I could carry, some play sand but mostly medium-coarse multi-purpose sand. Some peat and coir. Even some bags of potting soil.

Now I'm eager to get some blooms in them. The yard is so tiny that there's not many square feet to leave fallow.

I'm hoping that bulbs can push through the 'sod' from rye roots and "cover crop mix" if I just mow or shallowly "scalp" those beds in late winter, before any bulbs emerge, leaving the roots and bulbs undisturbed. I figure that the roots will add organics, and keep the soil a little better draining. Give the worms something to eat.

Whether I leave the cover crop tops on the bed as top-dressing green mulch, or move them to the compost heap, is a toss-up.

Thank you all for the advice - it sounds like these beds will lose much of the advantage of a cover crop if I don't turn under the tops, but that would kill the bulbs. It may still be better to cover the soil with rye etc, than to leave it bare.


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Peacful Valley has some great PDFs on cover crops! It doies sound like Crimson Clover would be better for shade, but it doesn't sound as if it likes poor drainage or germinating in cool soil.

They have two similar products, "Soil Builder Mix Raw" and "Organic Soil Builder Mix Raw".
If this was ultimately from them, it might contain:
40% Bell Beans
30% Purple Vetch (or 15% each 15% Lana Vetch & 15% Purple Vetch)
20% Magnus or BioMaster Winter Peas
10% Cayuse Oats (to nurse and scaffold the vetches)

20% peas sounds right, but I seem to have two types of peas: one slightly larger and dasrker than the other. Then a lot of very small round "birdseed". Something that looks just like rye. Something kind of like a three-corned hat.

When they come up, maybe they'll be identifiable. I'd better get some innoculant for the mix.


Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

I purchased innoculant too. Don't know if it was really necessary, but I went with the recommendations from Peaceful Valley. I did have good cover-crop germination.


Yes you need the innoculant for the best results. It may help germination however that is only one of many benefits it has.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

My favorite local nursery only had pea/bean innoculant, so I bought that, then later found multi-pupose online (much cheaper). Now I have more than I need - anyone wnat some innoculent?

BTW, I also found an advertising mailer from the co-op, and this isn't labelled Peacefull Farms. The ad had one name (a company that seems not to exist), and squinting at the photo in the mailer, the bag was actually labelled something else, maybe "Royal".

(I just got unmarked brown paper pags with a few pounds of each.)

Anyway, I doubt anyone would sell pre-innoculated seed mix. You're supposed to mix them right before sowing.

Except for the local nursery, it was all very cheap. However, I could have bought 7 bags of composted steer manure for what I spent at the nursery. I hope I get more biomass from this experiment than that! But I get so many free pots from that nursery, that I have to buy SOMETHIN G from them occasionally, and almost everything is overpriced.

Why are they my favorite? The only others within 20 miles are even more overpriced.


Glenwood Springs, CO(Zone 5b)


Crocus are recommended by a number of bulb dealers to plant directly in lawns as they will come up and do there thing before people have to mow. I notice you are in Everett, WA which is fairly mild climate.

Try this link to Breck's
Other sites may give you better info, but remeber bulb salesmen are of the same breed for the most part as used car salesman. LOL ;)

I have a few crocus in my flower garden out front near the sidewalk just to give me a color lift after a long Rocky Mountain winter!


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Thanks, Sonny!

Breck's looks cool, I've added it to my List of Links.

>> remember bulb salesmen are of the same breed for the most part as used car salesman. LOL ;)

I have noticed a tendency for seed packets from SOME companies to leave off anything that might discourage a sale, like "must stratify" or "only blooms for two weeks then bursts into flame" or "smells like swamp gas".

Now that I think about it, I have often seen "attracts bees and butterflys", but never seen "attracts snakes, slugs and black bears". Hmmm!



Seed and Nursery catalogs employ the second largest group of liars out there. Lawyers are in first place. I find it interesting but pay little attention to what they say. The good lawyers all head for the other side of the beltway were they seem to promptly reach out their hands quickly becoming purchased votes clansmen. Second choice for lawyers is to become copy writers for the catalogs. ]:o)

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or register to post.

Upload Images to your reply

    You may upload up to 5 images