Table of content
- What does a cover crop do?
- Where should a cover crop be used?
- What are some good cover crops?
- Field peas
What does a cover crop do?
A cover crop has several uses, the first of which is to suppress weeds in a plot of land not used to grow something else. Cover crops are also used to add nutrients and organic matter to the soil. Another use for cover crops is for animal fodder sometimes even during the winter.
Where should a cover crop be used?
A cover crop should be used on poor soil that is not yet ready to have better yielding crops grown in. A cover crop should also be grown in a plot of land over the winter to keep the soil from being lost to wind and other weather, as well as keeping weeds from taking over the unused plot. Depending on the kind of livestock and the kind of cover crop, cover crops can also be used to grow as animal fodder in large pens and pastures.
What are good cover crops?
In my opinion buckwheat, turnips, and field peas are some of the best cover crops.
Buckwheat is good for land that lacks fertility and it is good at keeping down weeds.
When it comes to growing buckwheat as a cover crop and you have a small back yard plot then I suggest you:
- Use a hoe to loosen the soil and make small furrows and then sprinkle the seeds in the furrows, then rake the soil over the seeds.
- At any point when the plants are 6 inches or taller you can let grazing livestock eat them. If you are going to grow something else in the same plot it is suggested to cut down the buckwheat before it makes seeds so there is not a problem with the buckwheat re-seeding.
- If you are going to use the stalks of the buckwheat to add organic matter and nutrients to the soil the cut the stocks off and either leave them on the soils surface to rot or turn the soil over and let them rot into the ground.
If you have a larger plot and have cultivation machinery then I suggest you:
- Use your machinery to make rows, seed the rows with buckwheat as you would with wheat.
- When it is 6 inches or larger you can let livestock eat it. If you are planing to grow other crops after it then cut before the first wave of seeds set.
- Using a mower it is easy to cut down the buckwheat in the fall and let it rot but it will rot faster if it is turned into the soil.
Turnips are very good for animal fodder and soil nutrients. When growing turnips on a small back yard plot I suggest that you:
- Use a hoe to make furrows and sprinkle turnip seeds in the furrows, The turnips do need some water to start with but you can slow watering considerably from there.
- When turnips are 4 inches in diameter or larger they can be used for animal fodder but it is suggested to let them get larger. They can also be used in the kitchen if the are tender and in good condition.
- If you want to use them to break up and fertilize the soil just leave them over winter and let them rot in the spring.
If you have a larger plot and large machinery than I suggest you:
- Use your machinery to make rows and seed sparsely with turnips. I suggest you plant near the end of the rainy part of spring so that the seed have water to get started but are not so wet that they rot.
- When turnips are 4 inches in diameter or larger you can let live stock graze on them. Depending on the quality of the crop the turnips might be marketable.
- If you are using them to fertilize the soil then let them just rot and as the roots rot away the soil will be looser and have more nutrients.
Field peas are great for animal fodder, loosening soil, and adding to soil fertility. When growing in a small backyard plot I suggest that you:
- Use a hoe to make rows and plant pea seeds sparsely (about one seed ever 2-4 inches) cover the seeds with a thin layer of dirt and water once.
- For grazing live stock such as goats wait until the pea vines are at least 10 inches long before letting them eat the vines. For birds such as chickens wait until there are peas on the vines to let the birds eat them. Small tender peas are okay for fresh eating but if you let them mature and dry them the make good porridge.
- If you want to use them to fertilize the soil just leave them to rot over winter.
If you have a large plot and large machinery then I suggest that you:
- Use your machinery to make rows and sparsely seed peas as soon as the soil is workable.
- Wait until the vines are at least 10 inches long before letting live stock graze on them.
- If you want to let the pea vines fertilize the soil let them die in the winter and rot.
For more in depth information on cover crops and their uses click here.