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Cover Crops for Vegetable Growers

Cover crops for early fall

Oats, wheat, and rye

In September, small grain cover crops can be sown for good winter cover, protection from erosion, and spring weed control.

Oats
Oats provide quick cover and the opportunity to plant the next crop early in the spring. Oats winter-kill, leaving a dead mulch that decomposes quickly when incorporated.

Wheat
Wheat is an excellent choice for an early fall-planted cover crop that will overwinter. Wheat grows more slowly than rye in the spring, making it easier to incorporate. However, it must be seeded after the Hessian fly-free date. If you must plant earlier, triticale is a similar cover crop option that can be seeded before the Hessian fly-free date. Early seeding improves winter survival and biomass production.

Rye
Rye will establish in difficult conditions and provide abundant biomass. It has strong weed-suppressive properties, but often suppresses crop yield as well. For a longer cover crop sequence to clean up a field and build fertility, rye can be frost seeded with medium red clover, then harvested early for straw. Clover then grows through the following spring.