Ashleigh Smith + photo

Ashleigh Smith

Jan 15
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Rapeseed cover crop field

Published 11 August 2022

When to Grow A Spring Cover Crop

Cover crops are the perfect way to prepare your garden for a plentiful fall harvest if you are skipping the early spring vegetables this year. Instead of letting the weeds go rampant, reduce and suppress them with a cover crop. If your garden isn’t feeding you, it might as well feed itself. Right? Spring cover crops are meant to help boost nutrients in the soil, suppress weeds, increase biomass (organic matter), and attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. You don’t need to look at a garden full of weeds before you are ready to start planting in the summer.

To help you plan and prepare your garden for the best season yet, we have provided a list of cover crops based on the benefits they provide. To get started, plant your seeds by broadcasting them over your home growing space. Alfalfa, barley, and spring wheat do well when planted in the early spring (mid-March to early April in areas without a frost). You should wait to plant all others until just past your last spring frost date for your location.

More Resources and Cover Crop Information

If you are interested in learning more about what cover crops or don’t know where to start, read our “What Are Cover Crops And Green Manures Used For?” article. The big reason we use cover crops is to prevent soil erosion and restore soils. This does not only apply to large farms, it is also essential in the home garden. Cover crop practices can also be used to feed animals such as chickens.

For a complete look at how to grow individual cover crops, we recommend reading through our free cover crop grow guide for advice tailored to each crop. Here you will find many of your questions answered.

Nitrogen Fixing

  • Alfalfa
  • New Zealand Clover
  • Sweet Clover
  • Field Peas

Atracts Beneficial Insects

Reduce Soil Compaction

  • Alfalfa
  • Sweet Clover

Erosion Control

  • New Zealand Clover
  • Sweet Clover
  • Mustard
  • Oats
  • Hulless Oats
  • Spring wheat

Weed Suppression

Biomass (Organic Matter)

  • Alfalfa
  • Barley
  • Sweet clover
  • Mustard
  • Oats
  • Hulless Oats
  • Field Peas
  • Sunflowers

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6 comments

Cameron

This is great information. Would you have different recommendations for cover crops for zone 9? I live in north central florida and would love to start some cover crops to help prepare my soil for a garden and feedmy animals. Great idea!


Brittany Stroud

I love this article. I’ve never done cover crops but this fall I am going to try planting some to see peas to see if I can help out my soil. Thanks for the advice.


Anastasia Tricoli

I’m definitely thinking about cover cropping this year!!


Eli

I’ve never done cropping but this article is very informative. I might try next year!


Clay williams

When talking cover crops there is no mention of daikon radish to be used for breaking up heavy clay soils.


Walter S Ferguson III

I am 71 yo. My wife and I raise some honey bees. I wanted to plant Mustard as I know they love to feed on the blossoms and it’s great for weed control. We have 5 acres. Some of it is garden (3/4) acre and rotated with red clover. Some is planted into plots of 3 different kinds of clover (1/4 acre each). What kind of mustard can I plant in Upstate NY, zone 6?


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