What is the best cover crop for a raised bin?

Asked October 8, 2015, 6:47 PM EDT

I'm exhausted trying to sift through all the possible cover crops. Here's what I need: A suggestion for what I can plant in my raised bin, something that will not grow tall as I can't run a mower through my bins. Is clover a good one? If so, what kind, as there seems to be many varieties. Also, if it's still growing in the spring, when is the correct time to dig the cover crop under? I know some just leave it and plant the veggie garden around it, but that prospect is just to revolutionary to me! Thanks for your help. Elizabeth

Clark County Washington

1 Response

Your reasons for wanting a cover crop will help you to decide what to grow in your raised bed over the winter. If you are looking to add nitrogen to your soil, you will want to plant a legume such as clover. If you want something that competes with weeds and capture available nitrogen in the spring, grasses might be your choice. A combination of the two will cover all your bases.

However, since it's already the beginning of October, your choices for grassy cover crops that would do well if planted now is narrowed down to three grass crops: Cereal rye, Winter Wheat, and Winter Oats. They will not, however become a good source of nitrogen for the following planting season.

It's getting late to plant a legume (the suggested planting time is the end of September), but Crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum) might be a good choice for the legume cover crop. WSU has a good article with a lot of information to help you make your choices.