Cover Crops in your Garden

Written by Hope Penny

Cover Crops


As fall closes in there are lots of things to get done around the house and in the garden. This time of year, it’s hard to decide which to do 1st. If you have chosen an outside chore during this beautiful weather, we thought a little information about the benefits of a cover crop to your garden might be in order.

The main benefit of using a cover crop in your garden is to prevent soil erosion from wind and rain and helping to restore some of the nutrients lost during the last growing season. Helping to suppress weeds is also a great benefit to your garden and your back :).  Green manure is the process of incorporating the cover crop into the soil for the sake of soil improvement and the benefit of fixing nitrogen to the soil (if using a legume or clover) and improves soil fertility.

One of the best cover crops is White Clover. It is a work horse in the garden for both commercial and home gardeners. In a commercial environment it is used to help combat soil erosion and to also help reduce soil compaction (it’s thick root system helps to keep the soil from becoming compacted), weed suppression, green walkways with cash crops, grazing, weed suppression and to fix nitrogen to the soil. White Clover is the most highly resilient of the clover family and a good choice for helping improve your soil. And let’s not forget the bees. Adding clover to your garden will help bring them into your yard and help pollinate all your other plants.

Hairy vetch is another common ground cover in the legume family. Hairy vetch actually absorbs nitrogen from the air as it grows and when turned back into the soil helps restore the nitrogen that has been lost during the growing season. It also attracts beneficial insects, improves the soil structure, suppresses weeds and helps with soil erosion. Be sure to spread seeds at least 30 days before the first frost so the roots can become established and grow thru the winter. Mow or plow under before the plant flowers in the spring.

Among some of the cover crops we carry, DragonStone Seed & Bulb has a wonderful variety of Cover Crop Mixes from a 2lbs bag of Superior Cover Crop Mix (covers approx. 1000sq ft.) or a 1/4lb bag (covers approx. 200sq ft.). This commercial grade balanced seed blend includes the following seeds – Austrian Field Peas, White & Crimson Clover, Hairy Vetch & Annual and Winter Rye. There is also  a 2oz mix of New Zealand White Clover and Hairy Vetch (which will cover approx. 250sq ft.),  and a  4oz mix of Winter Rye and Austrian Field Peas (covers approx. 200sq ft.)

So this year, try a different approach to weeding and see how a cover crop can benefit your garden for the year to come.