I love seeing the early April greening of my fall-planted cover crops. I’m happy knowing that the rye, crimson clover, and hairy vetch plants (about 8-inches high right now) perform multiple functions: add organic matter, nitrogen fixation, improve soil structure, suppress weeds, and prevent soil erosion. I’m also aware of the two major challenges: they are taking up space that could be used for planting early spring crops, and I have to kill the cover crops between April 25 and May 5 so I can plant warm season crops by mid- to late-May.
Rye and crimson clover Rye and hairy vetch
Methods I’ve used for cover crop “termination:”
- Mow the cover crop with a lawnmower or string trimmer and turn the clippings and plants under with a garden fork.
- Mow the cover crop and then cover the area with heavy duty weed barrier or a tarp to kill the plants. The dead residues are then easier to turn under, or you can plant directly into the residues. The latter is a type of no-till gardening that is preferred for improving soil quality.
Some resources to get you more excited about cover crops: