Top 7 Cover Crops To Plant In The Summer
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Top 7 Cover Crops To Plant In The Summer

As many gardeners know, crop rotation is important for having healthy soil in your vegetable garden. For example, if one season you plant tomatoes, you don’t want to follow it up the next season with tomatoes because the soil will be missing the specific nutrients those tomatoes need because the previous crop has already used those nutrients. Planting cover crops will add those nutrients back into the ground in between plantings. Cover crops make crop rotation less critical and give you more control over your soil.

In south Georgia where HOSS is located, we push our soil to the limits in the dead heat of summer. Summer cover crops are our go to solution for keeping our soil healthy between the Spring and Fall planting seasons. And because we don't have to fertilize or put cover crops on drip irrigation, you can save your resources for your cash crops in the main growing seasons.

The Benefits Of Summer Cover Crops

  • Fixing atmospheric nitrogen and adding it to soils
  • Building soils by adding organic matter known as “green manure.”
  • Controlling erosion by reducing water runoff and nutrient leaching.
  • Suppressing weed growth by providing a dense foliage canopy.
  • Managing pests by reducing harmful nematodes and soil fungi.
  • Attracting beneficial pollinators.

Cover Crop Classifications

Monocots have a tall, upward growth habit similar to corn and have a fibrous root system. Dicots tend to grow lower to the ground and have a deep tap root system. Legumes can be used as a cover crop that can also be harvested and are excellent nitrogen fixers.

Brown Top Millet

Brown Top Millet is a monocot that works great to prevent soil erosion and suppress weeds. Many people like to use this cover crop as a livestock forage. Others will use it to create feeding plots for doves and other wildlife. Much like Sorghum Sudangrass, it is a taller cover crop and performs very well in the heat. It usually matures in 60 to 70 days.

Sorghum Sudangrass

Sorghum Sudangrass is monocot that contains a fibrous root system similar to corn. Sorghum Sudangrass will aerate and provide a significant amount of biomass for your soil. This cover crop is taller compared to other warm-season cover crops, and looks much like corn. It also provides a solid ground cover which will outcompete weeds and reduce further weed pressure. It can be broadcast or easily direct-seeded with our Hoss Garden Seeder.

Buckwheat

Buckwheat is a dicot, warm-season cover crop with a taproot system. It is the fastest-maturing warm-weather cover crops that we offer. Buckwheat will mature in four to six weeks. This crop is great for attracting pollinators such as bees because they absolutely adore this crop. It is an ideal plant to scavenge the phosphorus in the soil as well.

Sunn Hemp

Another dicot that adapts well in hot and dry climates is Sunn Hemp. This is also a fast-growing crop that only takes eight to twelve weeks to mature. Sunn Hemp works well on overfarmed soils like sandy soils that are nutrient-poor. It is also can be a nitrogen fixer and can be used to suppress parasitic nematode populations in the soil.

Iron Clay Peas

Iron Clay Pea is a legume warm-season cover crop that has been traditionally used on food plots for hunting. However, it also makes a great cover crop to benefit your garden soil in the warmer months. Cowpeas thrive in warmer temperatures, are very drought-tolerant, and perform great when planted between the spring and fall growing seasons. Iron Clay Peas have many benefits as a cover crop including nitrogen-fixation, weed suppression, and attracting beneficial insects. Studies have shown that cowpeas are able to fix between 130-200 lbs of nitrogen per acre.

Sunflowers

When grown as a cover crop, sunflowers work as a soil cleanser and help to remove any soil impurities that might be present. They also have a very deep root system that helps to cycle and scavenge nutrients from the deep. They are also relatively drought-tolerant and perform well in the heat of summer when rainfall may be lower. These are really easy to grow on any scale, whether it be a raised bed or a few acres.

SuperBee Phacelia

Super Bee Phacelia is a nitrogen scavenger and has been reported to scavenge up to 15 to 20 units of nitrogen per acre. It has dense foliage which forms a carpet over the soil to retain moisture and prevent erosion. The dense foliage decomposes quickly once cut or tilled and adds carbon and organic matter to soils. Phacelia has also been noted to reduce harmful nematode populations by up to 30%. In milder climates, it can be grown as a fall/winter cover crop because it can withstand temperatures down to 18 degrees Fahrenheit.

Shop the best cover crop seeds on the market!

Summer Cover Crop Guide

Still need help deciding which summer cover crop to use in your garden? Click the chart below to download this free printable guide to help you out.