What is the Best Warm-Season Cover Crop?
Cover crops are a great way to improve the health and nutrients of your soil. Warm-season cover crops work explicitly great as a transition between spring and fall gardens. In South Georgia, that means we can plant warm-season cover crops anywhere from early spring until late fall. So how do you know which one to use?
All cover crops offer a variety of benefits, including:
- 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
Many gardeners use several different cover crops to make a “cocktail” specific for their needs. They make their decision based on soil needs and what was planted in the plot before. For example, if you planted something in the Nightshade family such as peppers, eggplant, potatoes, and tomatoes, you wouldn’t want to follow that up with another type of nightshade in that same plot until after you do a cover crop. If you don’t break up the planting with a cover crop, you could rob your soil of all its nutrients, making it unplantable.
The following seeds are the warm-season cover crops Hoss Tools offers:
All About Buckwheat
Cover crops are unique to each soil type and zone area, so it is hard to say which one is the best. For our soil here in zone 8b, where we had previously planted summer squash, we decided that Buckwheat would help it the best. Buckwheat is mainly good at weed suppression because of its fast growth and ability to outspread thee weeds. In one specific plot, we were dealing with pigweeds and crabgrass, which helped us make our decision of using Buckwheat. The Buckwheat will spread out over the weeds, not allowing any sun to reach them, which eventually kills off the weeds.
Another advantage of Buckwheat is the organic matter it provides to the soil. Adding organic matter to your soil loosens the topsoil, which increases drainage capabilities. Making sure your soil can accurately take in water is a critical ingredient in having a fruitful garden.
Even if you have the perfect soil and seed, if you have no pollinators, you can still end up with no vegetables or fruits. For our average gardener, they cannot bring in a hive of bees, but they can do things to draw in those pollinators organically. Buckwheat can help with that too!! Four to six weeks after planting, Buckwheat will put off a small flower attracting pollinators to the garden.
When planting Buckwheat you can go in with a seeder to plant it or broadcast plant it in the plot. Broadcast seeding is scattering the seed, by hand or mechanically, over an area. If you decide to broadcast seed it, you will need to go in and rake it very well, so the seeds are about 1/2 inch deep. The rate of Buckwheat is three pounds for every 1,000 square feet. So with a 500-foot plot, you will only need one and a half pounds.
After two to three weeks, the flowers and Buckwheat will be ready to mow down and be incorporated in the soil so that your next crop can quickly reap its benefits. It would be best if you did all of this on time. Check out our cover crop page on the Hoss Tools website to answer more of your questions!
Watch the video below to see Greg continue to explain the benefits of cover crops and the nutrients it brings your soil!!!