Cover Crop Growing Info

Cover crops, or farm seed, are becoming more popular on farms and home gardens. Cover crops come in several varieties and uses. Families of cover crops include broadleaf, grasses, grains, brassicas and legumes. Cover crop uses include attract beneficial insects, compaction control, erosion control, forage, green manure, nitrogen fixation, nitrogen scavenging, no till, organic matter and weed suppression to name a few!
Cover crops offer a more sustainable way to farm land which is becoming more popular due to demand. Returning nutrients to the soil, suppressing weeds, pollinating can be done naturally without the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Using cover crops will not only produce a higher quality product but will help restore a healthy eco-system in your soil. Increased micro-organisms, worms, and nutrients lead to healthier produce.
How to Plant:
There are two types of common cover crop planting methods. The first method is used for small to medium sized plot without large machinery. For small plots the ground should be tilled evenly throughout the entire planting area. Tillage allows for easy planting and higher germination rates. Once the ground is tilled a seed broadcaster can be used to evenly spread the cover crop seed over the plot. Hand spreading is also acceptable. The seed should then be evenly worked into the soil by raking. If hay is available it always helps keep moisture in and weeds down while your crop starts growing.
The second method is used by farmers who need to cover acres of farm land with cover crops. The ground should be tilled evenly and flattened. Use a seed broadcaster to spread seed on plot and plant at correct depth.
 Broadleaf Seeding Rates:
  Sowing Season Seeding Depth Seeding Rate (1,000 Sq. Ft.) Seeding Rate (1 Acre)
Chicory Spring 1/8 – 1/4″ 1/4 lb. 3-4  lbs.
Flax Spring and Summer 1/8 – 1/4″ 1 lb. 27-40 lbs.
Kale Spring 1/8 – 1/4″ 1/4  lb. 4 lbs.
Mustard Spring & Summer 1/4 – 3/4″ 1/4 lb. 5-15 lbs.
Radish Late Summer 1/4 – 1/2″ 1 lb. 10-20 lbs.
Rape Spring & Summer 1/2 – 1 1/2″ 1 lb. 5-15 lbs.
Rutabaga Spring & Summer 1/2 – 3/4″ 1/4 lb. 3-5 lbs.
Turnip Spring or Late Summer 1/2″ 1/4 lb. 8-10 lbs.


Broadleaf Uses:
Most broadleaf cover crops are used for animal foraging. Farmers use kale, radish, rape, rutabaga and turnips for goat, cow, pig foraging. Chickens love most of the broadleaf foraging greens above including flax and chicory! Mustard releases chemicals that deter pest and animals love the greens. But overall broadleaves are great for animal foraging.
Grains & Grasses Seeding Rates:
  Sowing Season Seeding Depth Seeding Rate (1,000 Sq. Ft.) Seeding Rate (1 Acre)
Barley Spring & Summer 3/4 – 2″ 2 lbs. 75-125  lbs.
Buckwheat Spring & Summer 1/2 – 1 1/2″ 2-3  lbs. 50-100 lbs.
Millet Summer 1/2 – 1″ 1/4 lb. 6-10 lbs.
Oats Spring & Summer 1/2 – 1 1/2″ 4 lbs. 100-150 lbs.
Rye, Winter Anytime 3/4 – 2″ 4 lbs. 75-125 lbs.
Ryegrass Anytime 0 – 1/2″ 1 lb. 25-50 lbs.
Sudangrass Early Summer 1/4 – 1/2″ 1-2 lb. 35-65 lbs.
Wheat Spring 1/2 – 1 1/2″ 4 lbs 75-150 lbs.
Grain & Grasses Uses:
Grains are reliable, mostly fast growing and have multiple uses for farmers. These cover crops are great at scavenging soil for nitrogen with long tap roots. Once the grain and grasses are mature they can either be harvested for feed or killed used for green manure, weed suppression and no till farming. During decomposition they will release nitrogen back into the soil providing nutrition for your crops. Mixing a grain or grass with a legume can give excellent results.
Legume Seeding Rates:
  Sowing Season Seeding Depth Seeding Rate (1,000 Sq. Ft.) Seeding Rate (1 Acre)
Alfalfa Spring & Summer 1/4 – 1/2″ 1/2 lb. 15-25  lbs.
Clover, Red Anytime 1/4 – 1/2″ 1/2  lb. 25-30 lbs.
Clover, Sweet Spring & Summer 1/4 – 1/2″ 1/2 lb. 25-30 lbs.
Clover, White Spring & Summer 1/4 – 1/2″ 1/4 lb. 5-15 lbs.
Cowpeas Spring & Summer 1 – 1/2″ 2 lbs. 75 – 125 lbs.
Peas, Field Spring or Fall 1 1/2 – 3″ 3 lbs. 100-150 lbs.
Soybeans Spring to Summer 1″ 4 lbs. 150-175 lbs.
Vetch, Chickling Spring & Summer 1″ 2 lb. 50-75 lbs.
Vetch, Hairy Anytime 1/2 – 1 1/2″ 1 lb. 25-50 lbs.
Legume Uses:
Legumes are known for their excellent nitrogen fixation. Unlike grains that store nitrogen in the plant, legumes are excellent are capturing nitrogen from the air and transferring it back into the soil. Plus most legumes can be harvested and used as high quality feed. Most legumes are great for attracting bees and beneficial insects while in bloom.
Using Inoculants for Legumes:
Rhizobium bacteria does not usually exist in high enough quantities to inoculate an entire crop of legumes. When legumes are inoculated with the proper strain of Rhizobium bacteria, they produce large, pink nodules on the roots of the legumes. The pinkish color comes from the presence of a hemoglobin-like molecule that is necessary for nitrogen fixation to occur. To inoculate, moisten seeds with just enough water to coat the seeds in a shallow bowl, pour on the inoculant and mix well to coat seeds. Plant seeds immediately after inoculation.
Learning Download: Cover Crop Comparison Chart