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Winter cover crops

 
Posts: 121
Location: Danville, KY (Zone 6b)
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This was my first year gardening and I'd say it was a mild success. Now I want to start thinking about a winter cover crop, which I've never done before but I've read about. I'm just not sure what I should plant, and when.

It seems like there are two types to consider: Those that die in the winter and cover the ground, and those that remain alive and grow more in the spring. It seems like the living mulch would be better, but I didn't plan to till in the spring, so do I need the kind that dies in the winter freeze?

I'm in zone 6b. My crops are alive but after a long summer and a butt load of livestock to prepare for the winter, I'm ready to wrap up the garden sooner rather than later for this year.
 
gardener
Posts: 787
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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I have seeded red clover and it was quite hardy through the winter and could tolerate mowing. This season i am clearing off a bed after years of being covered with plastic mulch and have started seeding white dutch clover. I am seeding now as i continue to remove crab and Bermuda grass.
This clover is inoculated so i am counting on some nitrogen and life in the soil. It says to give 40 days before the first killing frost to ensure the clover establishes so i should have plenty of time. I plan to keep using the white clover around my crops once they are in and growing.

If you are planting a crop that is a perennial than just check around at how long they need to be established before frost. As long as you don't plant them too late they should be with you after they die down in the hard winter. Next spring they will come up and be a living mulch.

If you are doing an annual Plant then it will depend on if you want it to go to seed, or just remain immature so when it dies it covers the ground until the next spring. If it is allowed to go to seed before winter then it will be germinating next year along with your crops.
 
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Posts: 4321
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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My winter cover crops, when I plant them, tend to be either winter wheat or winter rye. They grow all winter long, and are easy to kill in the spring. They are about the only common cover crops in my climate that actively grow during the winter.
 
Posts: 1767
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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We are testing out winter barley. It grows again in the spring but brings a few nutrients to the surface for the garden later on. Plus beer. Plus food. Plus food for animals. Win win I hope.

If it hasn't died off by the time I'm ready to plant I'll simply sow my garden amongst the stalks. I'm sure the seeds would appreciate a bit of shelter while germinating and it is sure to die before it starts competing.
 
Posts: 14
Location: Seattle, WA
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I'm going to attempt winter cover crops for the first time this year also, in an attempt to out-compete the grass and create a space to plant spring annual veggies. I'm wondering if I can just broadcast seed on the currently dead grass and cover it with mulch, or if I need to cover it with soil or compost. Would that be ok? I've got white clover and vetch and am thinking about including a third, in the pacific NW.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1767
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Courtney Siebken wrote:I'm going to attempt winter cover crops for the first time this year also, in an attempt to out-compete the grass and create a space to plant spring annual veggies. I'm wondering if I can just broadcast seed on the currently dead grass and cover it with mulch, or if I need to cover it with soil or compost. Would that be ok? I've got white clover and vetch and am thinking about including a third, in the pacific NW.



Mulch should be fine. When I planted grass seed I simply broadcasted it and covered it with straw. It grew really well.
 
Posts: 226
Location: South central Illinois, USA
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I sowed a plot with winter wheat last Fall, even though I was afraid that when Spring came, the soil would be too wet for tilling, and the stuff would get out-of-hand. Imagine my surprise when, this Spring, it was far too wet to till and the stuff went wild, grew like weeds, and I had to work my tail off to get it cut and turned under. No more winter wheat for me, thanks...

I wonder if you grow anything over winter to eat? We have a type of Winter Lettuce, it's a heritage breed, breeds true, delicious and survives over winter, grows first in Spring. Oh, and we winter-over Bloomsdale spinach too. Sow now, work in lots of compost first, and sow on a hill you rake up. The more OM you can work in and the higher the hill, the better. Works very well, even in a cold winter... Good luck!
 
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