Row by Row Episode 214: Fall and Winter Cover Crops
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Row by Row Episode 214: Fall and Winter Cover Crops

Row by Row Episode 214: Fall and Winter Cover Crops

Why grow cover crops? This is a topic many gardeners need help with. When growing any cover crop, even fall and winter cover crops is extremely important to know which you should be growing in your garden. Before planting a cover crop, identify which benefits or goals (weed suppression, fall grazing, taking up excess nutrients, reducing soil compaction, etc.) are most important. Since it is early September, it is time to start thinking about fall and winter cover crops; also, a good tip is to "broadcast" the seeds when planting your cover crops.

Why Grow Cover Crops?

Here are many reasons you should consider growing fall and winter cover crops (or just cover crops in general).

  • Improving soil structure by increasing soil microbial activity
  • Weed Suppression (by direct competition or allelopathy)
  • Increases water filtration and reduces soil compaction
  • Increases organic matter and reduces soil erosion from wind and rain (crop residues/mulch)
  • Activity against bacteria, fungi, insects, nematodes, and weeds
  • Nutrient cycling (plants take up nutrients that may leach out of the soil profile)
  • Protects soil surface solar energy, and conserves soil moisture

When Should You Plant Fal and Winter Cover Crops?

Zone 7 - September 15th through October 1st

For Zone 8 - October 1st through October 15th

If You're In Zone 9 - October 15th through November 1st


Crimson Clover provides excellent ground cover and adds nitrogen to the soil. Seeds are coated to make seeding/broadcasting easier. OMRI inoculated. Austrian Winter Pea is an abundant nitrogen fixer, it's a ground cover for erosion control and weed suppression. Hairy Vetch is easy to get rid of, bees/pollinators love it and it adds nitrogen back into the soil. White Dutch Clover is a heat tolerant and drought tolerant cover crop; it has an annual in the south and a perennial in the northern states.

Marvel Chickpea is a nitrogen-fixing cover crop that performs well when planted in early fall or spring. It has deep tap roots that condition the soil, and its dense foliage suppresses weeds and prevents erosion. Frosty Berseem Clover will get you improved nitrogen fixation, and it also has a great cold tolerance compared to other clover varieties. It germinates fast and is a multi-cut variety. OMRI coated for easy planting.

Other Cover Crops

Super Bee Phacelia is a heat-loving variety that can be used as a cut flower or cover crop. It attracts pollinators, builds soil, scavenges nitrogen, and reduces harmful nematodes by up to 30%. Impact Forage Collard breaks up hardpans, scavenges nutrients from the deep, suppresses weeds, and also provides significant forage for livestock; it is very cold and heat tolerant.

Tillage Radish penetrates deeply to break up and aerate hard soils, improving soil structure and drainage. Broadleaf Mustard releases chemicals into the soil to suppress and reduce nematodes, fungi, insects, and weeds. Kodiak Brown Mustard is a biofumigant used to reduce soil pests, pathogens, and diseases; it is "hotter" than traditional Florida Broadleaf Mustard. It is a great cover crop to plant prior to planting potatoes.

Using Cover Crop Mixes

Yes, you can mix cover crops to get the ultimate benefits! By planting a mix of different cover crop varieties you have the ability to address multiple objectives at the same time. You should choose plants with complementing growth forms to reduce competition between the species. Another tip is to combine shallow and deep-rooted species to use a greater portion of the soil.

Check out Hoss University for more tips and tricks on growing your own food!

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