Hairy Vetch is a cool season cover crop that is known for the large amount of nitrogen fixation that it is able to accomplish. Studies have shown that it is able to fix over 100 lbs of nitrogen per acre. That nitrogen is then transferred to soils when the cover crop is cut/mowed and incorporated into the soil. Vetch has a vegetation structure that is vine-like and is relatively low to the ground as compared to other cover crops. It rarely exceeds 3 ft. tall, but the vines can reach as long as 12 ft.
Hairy Vetch is an ideal cover crop for reducing soil erosion. Because it has a thick ground cover, it will reduce the amount of water runoff. This will increase nutrient retention because fewer nutrients will be leached as a result of runoff. Vetch provides a solid barrier for weed suppression by shading the area and preventing any new weeds from germinating. Vetch also serves as great forage for livestock. Instead of mowing, you may wish to use chickens, goats or other livestock to remove the cover crop and add more nitrogen via animal manure.
Hairy Vetch should be planted in early spring or fall. For fall plantings, it should be planted at least a month before frost, so that the cover crop has adequate time to grow and establish before winter kill. For spring plantings, it should be planted early enough to obtain a solid stand before spring crops will need to be planted. Vetch may be broadcast and covered or planted with a precision planter such as our Hoss Garden Seeder. As with all cover crops, vetch should be cut or mowed before going to seed. Due to the vegetation structure, vetch typically breaks down in soils faster than other cover crops. This allows for a quicker turnover time from cover crop to vegetable plantings.
Hairy Vetch Planting Information:
Planting Depth: 1/2″
Seeding Rate: 1 lb per 1,000 sq. ft.