Cover Crop Spotlight Double Feature: Vetch and Winter Rye!
For those of you in Zone 7 or 8 considering a late season cover crop, it’s not too late to sow some slightly hardier seeds and establish a nice crop before our harder frosts in a couple months. Cover crops are commonly combined in order to provide synergistic results in the garden. A great example of this is the pairing of Vetch with Winter Rye.
Vetch is a leguminous, vining forage that is used extensively as a green manure crop. As a legume, it forms a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium bacteria in the soil thereby fixing atmospheric nitrogen (N2, unusable to plants) into the soil as ammonia (NH3, usable!) and providing a boost of fertility to whatever plants follow it in the garden.
While adequate rhizobia populations may be in the soil already, you can guarantee the best results by inoculating the vetch seed with Guard-N Bean & Pea innoculant (available for order over by phone).
Vetch is relatively winter hardy and can survive some of the early frosts in our region, tolerating temperature as low as 10⁰ F. It also establishes deep roots, improving soil drainage and root zone water recharge, while minimizing the effects of soil erosion.
Winter Rye, a grass, complements vetch very well. It sprouts and establishes faster in the soil which helps to suppress establishment of undesirable weed seeds (i.e. less weeding next season!). It also adds a prodigious amount of biomass to the soil that will be rich in the nitrogen fixed by the vetch! Oats can also be used in a combination with the vetch, but winter rye is hardier and will grow longer before being killed by hard frosts.
Cover cropping is an integral aspect of many successful intensive farming and gardening operations, allowing for more crop rotations and discouraging weed seed germination. It can also be a great way to reduce soil erosion and compaction, improve soil texture, and boost garden fertility. Come in and explore our cover crop offerings year-round!
By Adam Sherwood