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Cool Season Cover Crops

In the midst of fall, we may be reflecting on our summer garden’s bounty and planning ahead for springtime growth and next summer’s bounty. However, fall is also the perfect time to plan for bettering our garden beds!

Cover crops are one way of doing just that, by improving soil quality and weed suppression alongside other uses. These other uses may include disrupting disease cycles and feeding livestock and bees throughout the cooler months.

Regarding soils, cover crops allow us to improve our soil quality, increase nutrients, remove excess nutrients, and shade out weeds. In North Carolina, Crimson clover gives your garden a green boost, cereal rye crowds out weeds, and daikon radish rams its way through compacted soils. You can also mix seeds to get multiple benefits: a 50/50 mix of cereal rye and crimson clover knocks back the weed population and fixes nitrogen for next year.

Cover crops can also be used as green manure. To do so, sow a crop such as rye and till it under before it goes to seed. This allows it to breakdown in the soil in the spring right as you get your garden ready.

To plant cover crops, you can gradually fill in a garden as it finishes or plow your garden under and sow the entire bed at once. Also, be sure to know before you sow! Consider your garden needs and what you want to accomplish–whether it’s increased nutrients or weed control. General seeding rates are 20 lbs per acre for crimson clover, 12 lbs per acre for radish, and 25 lbs per acre for rye.

For more information, be sure to visit our office or harnett.ces.ncsu.edu. You can also click on the following links:

Winter Annual Cover Crops 

Cover Crops for Your Garden

Cover Crops (and Garlic)

Cover Crop Specification Guide 

Cool Season Cover Crop Species and Planting Dates and Techniques