When should I plant a cover crop for raised beds in the spring?


I have a small home garden that is set up in beds. Now that the snow is gone, I want to plant a cover crop/green manure crop. I have a field peas and oat mix. How soon can I plant this mix? The snow is gone on my well-weeded, beds and I want to keep the weeds from starting up. 


Jonathan Foster, Special Project Assistant

First, let me provide links to two excellent UMaine resources on cover crops/green manures:

Cover Crops and Green Manures

Bulletin 1170: Cover Cropping for Success

While some of the language focuses on larger scale production, the information can easily be adapted to home settings.

Based on those tables, as long as you keep an eye on possible late season hard frosts, you’re pretty close to being able to plant cover crops in your beds. You do want to make sure your soil is no longer frozen or saturated/muddy before planting–working the soil too soon can destroy its texture and lead to compacted beds. Keep in mind, as well, that if your goal is primarily to prevent weed emergence in newly-weeded beds, mulching (as described in this UNH fact sheet) is an excellent alternative to cover cropping. If your goal is also to provide biomass to be turned into the soil later on for soil improvement, green manure is the way to go.