Late cover crop

Asked January 6, 2020, 11:55 AM EST

Is too late /not worth the effort to plant a cover crop since we are in January ? Could you recommend a cover crop for the Willamette valley ? I plan on planting in May .

Benton County Oregon

3 Responses

Hi,

So we can best direct your question, are you asking about cover crops for a home garden or a small farm? Thanks for the additional information.

Advice on both would be appreciated . I have 20 50ft rows for market as well as 12 raised beds for my own consumption . The 12 raised beds are a coco peat mix , the 50ft rows are in the ground . Thank you .

Greetings,

Have you had a chance to review this publication? Living on the Land - Guide to Growing Cover Crops https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/ec1653.

In response to your question, I really have more questions for you than solid answers. Such as, what are your motivations for cover cropping? The publication above helps you to identify those. If your main goal for this winter is to protect the soil and prevent erosion or compaction, then mulching might be the best option as it is too late for an over wintering cover crop which requires a Fall planting. If your main motivation is soil fertility - you could do an early Spring seeding, However, with your May termination needs/your short turn around time, it is unknown how much benefits you would get out of it.

Is your ground already worked up? You would not want to work the ground this time of year due to compaction concerns. Working the soil wet would have major consequences. If you have to cultivate the ground (remove any weeds) before seeding, you would be best off leaving them there until an extended dry period. What type of soil do you have? We often get a nice dry spot in February where well drained sandy soils often dry out enough to work. Do you currently have weeds on the beds or are they bare? If the soil is ready for seeding, then an option would be to use a spin spreader for a small seeded cover crop like Phacelia or Crimson Clover. Spun on to surface after the worst of the cold weather.

If you are determined to get a cover crop in and your soil is dry enough to work, then your options are a Cereal Rye or Annual Rye Grass. These can be hard to kill if you don't have equipment, but are best at getting established in cold weather. If you want legumes, then Hairy Vetch. The longer you can wait into May or Early June to terminate the better.

Feel free to contact me directly with any follow up questions.