Cover crops are also called "green manure" and sometimes "living mulch." They are plants that are grown to suppress weeds, help build and improve soil, and control diseases and pests. They can add nitrogen to your soil, building fertility without using chemical fertilizer. You can plant them in between rows of other crops to help suppress weeds while building fertility. They often have tap roots that help break up compacted soils and improve their structures. They help control erosion, holding onto valuable, rich topsoil in between plantings. They help hold soil moisture. And they can even build disease resistance in other crops.
So, of course, you want to plant a cover crop! The main question is, which one do you use? Different cover crops can provide different benefits, suit your climate better or worse than others, and match your needs best at a certain time. You might plant red clover between rows of vegetable crops to control weeds, but plant buckwheat in a field that is fallow for a season to build fertility and improve structure. In the fall, you'll want to plant winter rye or vetch, but in the spring, you might choose sorghum.
Here are five of the best cover crops to help improve your soil.
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Crimson clover, red clover, and white Dutch clover are all used as cover crops. Clover fixes nitrogen in the soil and is great for adding fertility to your soil. Yellow clover is perfect for improving soil structure. Medium red clover has an array of benefits and is often used by small farmers to plant between vegetable rows.
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Sorghum-Sudangrass is a hybrid crop that grows quickly and forms an extensive root structure. Use it to suppress weeds and protect your soil from erosion. It also adds biomass to the soil since it grows so tall.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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