Is it too late to grow a cover crop on my raised beds this fall/winter?
I am wondering if I should add a cover crop to my raised beds this fall/winter? I was growing vegetables in them over the summer and heard a cover crop is a great idea. What type of cover crop to get and how do you get rid of it before next year’s planting?
Elizabeth Stanley, Horticulture Community Education Assistant
Thank you for your question about cover crops for your raised bed gardens. Based on your photo, it looks like your garden thrived.
Now that it’s the end of September, it’s too late in the season to get a cover crop to germinate and grow before the impending first frost. In the meantime, there are a number of ways to at least protect your soil from erosion and nutrient loss. You can cover your beds with straw, grass clippings, seaweed, chopped leaves, and other organic matter. You can even use weighted cardboard, newspaper or tarps. Whatever it takes to avoid bare soil.
For next year, here are two cover crop charts. The first shows seeding rates and the reasons for their use. The second chart shows when to sow and how to incorporate the material back into the soil.
The easiest and least expensive cover crop for home vegetable gardeners is whole feed oats. You can use them from early to late summer. Just sow as you harvest or when you have blank spots in your garden. The plants will die after a few hard frosts and will lay down a nice mat of material to protect the soil. In the spring, you can incorporate this into the soil with a fork, or push aside the matted material to plant seedlings or seeds.