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August 30, 2010

The dilemna of the fall cover crop is finally solved

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I usually plant a fall cover crop in September and spent some time trying to decide which plant to use. I planted Berseem Clover several years in a row and had good luck with it. It puts a lot of nitrogen in the ground when tilled under and doesnt grow so high as to be unmanagable. However, one winter the temperature dipped down to ten degrees and it all died out, leaving the ground bare and vulnerable to leaching and erosion.

Fava beans are very good ground cover. The fix nitrogen also and are hardy down to 10 degrees. Another plus is that they break up nicely when you till them under. However, they sometimes grow as high as six feet tall which makes them difficult to till unless you weed eat them first.

Vetches are legumes and excellent nitrogen fixers. They should be innoculated before sowing. The one reason I stopped using them was the diffuculty in tilling in the spring. They grow tall, sometimes five feet tall and twine around the prongs of the tiller, making it bind up. So much time is spent stopping and unraveling the vines before continuing the work. I think weedeating first would help, and then letting the crop dry and wilt before beginning to till.

That has been my experience with cover crops. This year I'm taking a chance and using Territorial Seeds fall mix which includes vetch, rye, Australian peas, and clover. I'm hoping that some of negatives will balance each other out like the the difference in cold tolerance, and so I will end up with a good crop to till in in the spring. Territorial Seed has a good selection of different cover crops and a great fall catalogue.

At Fall cover crop

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Posted by Marilyn Renaker at August 30, 2010 7:50 AM
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