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Winter Cover Crops – You can start sowing your cover crops in late fall for the winter. For the advantages of planting cover crops or green manure, see this article.

Winter Cover Crops

The following are the crops to sow as green manure and when best to sow them…

Winter Rye

Winter Rye cover crop
Winter Rye cover crop

Winter rye is also known as Recleaned Rye and Cereal Rye. This is a winter hardy grain germinates and grows quickly in the cold weather of fall. As a cover crop, it can tolerate infertile soil and kill weeds by smothering them.

If you want to grow the maximum amount of organic matter, rye is the perfect choice. But take note that you need to till winter rye in early because waiting for the stalks to get 2-3 feet high will make the task difficult as the stalks will be tough and hard by then. Till the cover crop in before they start to flower or before they reach 2 feet.

This cover crop won’t add nitrogen to your soil. Sowing time is August through December.


oats cover crop
oats cover crop

This can be used as a substitute for rye and just like rye it is tolerant of cold. Unlike rye though, oats can provide much more organic material. Sowing time is August through December.


triticale cover crop
triticale cover crop

This is another grain cover crop that can be planted as rye substitute. It is not as cold tolerant as rye but produces more organic matter. Sowing time is August through December.


Mustard cover crop
Mustard cover crop

This winter cover crop has some tendency to inhibit some soil-borne diseases and pests. Sowing time is August through December.

Crimson Clover

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This is a tiny seeded annual clover and it can tolerate low-fertility (so long as there is good drainage) and some acidity in the soil.

The clover’s dense mass of 18-24 inch tall stems and foliage give a large amount of nitrogen and organic matter to the soil. In the spring, the clover’s bright red flowers are loved by bees. Sowing time is September to Mid-October.

Common Vetch

Common Vetch cover crop
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This cover crop is best adapted to fertile, well-drained garden soil and it is intolerant to wet soil. If your winters are dry, common vetch is a good green manure choice.

The common vetch is a vigorous but weak-stemmed vine thus it is often mixed with winter rye for some support. They make a good pair as common vetch provides the soil with a good amount of nitrogen. Sowing time is Mid-September to November.

Austrian Peas

Austrian Peas cover crop
Austrian Peas cover crop

This is also called Winter Peas and Field Peas. It prefers fertile, well-limed soils and can tolerate poor drainage. This cover crop will also add nitrogen to your soil.

In the early spring, the young pea shoots or plant tips can be harvested. Sowing time is October through December.

Fava Beans

Fava Beans cover crop
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This is an ancient small-seeded relative of the Chinese broad bean and it is a tall-growing legume. This cover crop will do best in well drained fertile soil. It generates lots of nitrogen and organic matter for your garden soil. The seeds of the fava beans are edible though not very tasty. Sowing time is mid to late October.

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