Build your soil with cover crops.

Definition: A cover crop is a type of plant grown to suppress weeds, help build and improve soil, and control diseases and pests. Cover crops are also called “green manure” and “living mulches.”

They’re called “green manure” because they provide nutrients to the soil much like manure does. And as “living mulches,” cover crops prevent soil erosion.

Once grown, cover crops are usually mowed and then tilled into the soil.

Also Known As: living mulch, green manure
Examples:

Hardy legumes increase soil nitrogen and organic matter. After a slow fall start, they grow rapidly in March and April and may not mature until May in some regions. Mow these cover crops in spring at or before flowering, then till them under.

Field pea (Pisum arvense and P. sativus). Grows 6 inches to 5 feet high; hardy to 10 to 20� F. ‘Austrian Winter’ pea is low growing and late maturing. ‘Magnus’ grows to 5 feet. Sow 2 to 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Berseem clover (Trifolium alexandrinum). Grows 1 to 2 feet high; hardy to 20° F. Will regrow after cutting. Produces high amounts of nitrogen. Sow 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Crimson clover (T. incarnatum). Grows 18 inches high; hardy to 10° F. Matures late and fixes less nitrogen than other clovers. Attracts bees. Sow 1/2 to 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet. If allowed to go to seed, can become weedy.

Dutch white clover (T. repens). Grows 6 to 8 inches high; hardy to -20° F. Perennial and shade tolerant so may become weedy. Sow 1/2 to 1 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa). Grows to 2 feet high; hardy to -15° F. Hardiest annual legume. Tolerates poor soil, matures late. Sow 1 to 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Fava beans (V. faba). Grows 3 to 8 feet high; hardy to 15° F. Bell bean is a shorter (3-foot) relative. Sow 2 to 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

The tropical legumes below grow quickly in fall to increase soil nitrogen and add abundant organic matter, but need warm growing conditions. Plant in late summer or early fall in the Southeast and Southwest before winter cover crops. These are best grown as summer annuals in the North.

Sunn hemp (Crotolaria juncea). Grows 5 to 6 feet high; hardy to 28° F. Needs same growing conditions as corn. Cut or mow before stems become woody. Can also reduce nematodes. Sow 1 to 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Sesbania (S. macrocarpa). Grows 6 to 8 feet high; hardy to 32° F. Grows like sunn hemp, but more tolerant of flooding, drought, salinity, low fertility. Sow 1 pound per 1,000 square feet.

Cowpea (Vigna sinensis). Grows 1 to 2 feet high; hardy to 32° F. Tolerates poor and acidic soils. Prefers humidity and tolerates drought. Sow 2 to 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Grasses grow quickly, tolerate cold, increase organic matter, and improve the structure of compacted soils. They also control erosion but don’t increase nitrogen. Mow these annual grass cover crops in spring before seeds set, or till under.

Oats (Avena sativa). Grows 2 to 3 feet tall: hardy to 10 to 20° F. Produces least organic matter of grasses, but tolerant of wet soils. Sow 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Barley (Hordeum vulgare). Grows 2 to 3 feet tall; hardy 0 to 10° F. Fast maturing and tolerant of dry and saline soils: intolerant of acidic soil. Sow 2 to 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum). Grows 2 to 3 feet high; hardy to -20° F. Fast growing and tolerates flooding. Absorbs excess nitrogen from soil. Can become weedy. Sow 1/2 to 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Winter rye (Secale cereale). Grows 4 to 5 feet tall; hardy to -30° F. Best grass for cold winter climates: tolerant of low fertility, acidic soils. Sow 2 to 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

 

Thanks to: http://www.garden.org/ediblelandscaping/?page=september_cover

 

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