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Protecting soil in winter

The best cover crops for planting now are those that grow quickly in cool weather. Some will winter over and start growing again next spring. Others will be killed by cold weather but will have enough root and top growth to hold the soil in place during the winter. These two types require different management next year, so it's important to figure out how the cover crop fits into your spring planting schedule. Here are some of the considerations for cover crops to plant now.

Cover Crop
Johnny's Fall Green Manure Mix contains winter rye, hairy vetch, field peas, crimson clover and ryegrass. The winter rye and hairy vetch are hardy and will grow rapidly in spring. The field peas, clover, and ryegrass will winter kill in the North.

Oats, field peas and oilseed radish are cold-tolerant, but will be killed by a hard freeze. They are easy to incorporate in spring.

Winter rye can be planted latest of all the fall cover crops and it will overwinter. It will start growing early next year and need to be tilled in before it produces seed.

To help you choose the cover crops that are best for your farm, we recommend our free Cover Crop Comparison chart and the book Managing Cover Crops Profitably, which is available in print from Johnny’s or can be downloaded free from the SARE website.

Visit Johnny's Selected Seeds for more free information about growing produce, herbs, cover crops and flowers.

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Reprinted from JSS Advantage September 2010