What is a Cover Crop?
In the most basic definition, a cover crop is a plant that covers the soil while you are not using it. Growing a cover crop is going to lead to healthier soil and a more productive garden. Because of its many benefits, some farmers/gardeners like to mix two cover crops in a field and call it a cover crop cocktail. Whether you are using just one crop or a cocktail, it is crucial for your soil and the future of your crops.
There are many cover crops, with each one having different benefits for your soil, for example, Hairy Vetch. Hairy Vetch is a cool-season crop as well as a legume, meaning that it stores up nitrogen and phosphorous in its roots, so it helps make the soil rich for your next crop. Another example is Rye, which is also a cool-season crop, and it is a cereal grain. Rye works well in soils where erosion and weeds are a problem because it helps fight both of those. These two cover crops, Rye and Hairy Vetch work well together because they differ in what they do. Planting these two as a cocktail will help keep your soil flat with no weeds and continue to stay rich in minerals underneath.
In South Georgia, specifically, we push our soil almost all times of the year, we can do this because of our weather conditions. We have to keep up with our crop rotation and understand the importance of taking care of our soil. That is why it is so imperative to plan out what you will be planting and where each crop will be at so you can know what cover crops will benefit your land the most. Planning is essential in every stage of gardening to get the most out of your crops.
Cool Season Types of Cover Crops
Warm Season Types of Cover Crops
What do I do Now?
Once you have figured out what cover crop seed will work best for your soil, and you know where and what will be going in the garden after the cover crop, then you go in there and direct seed them into the same plot. If you decide to do the cocktail of two crops, you can plant the two seeds at the same time and then rake them in together. This mixing will help spread the benefits of both crops across the plot.
Next, you are going to leave your cover crops growing until right before they start to seed. You will know they are beginning to germinate once you see it forming. When they are about to drop the seed, that means it is time to work that cover crop back in. If you have a flail mower, you can cut it down, and it will incorporate the crops back in but no worries if you do not you can do it with a regular lawnmower as well.
Before it is time for you to plant your garden, you are going to cut it down and till it all in together as you plant your garden and watch it grow to pay attention to how your garden benefited before and after using a cover crop. Hopefully, your garden will be the most fruitful it has ever been.
Check out our cover crops seed page to see a break down of all the crops, if you are still on the fence about planting them check out the video below!