Living Mulches and Cover Crops

Living Mulches are a vegetative cover sown within and between crops. Living Mulches can be sown into vegetable garden plots.

They will cover the soil without competing with crops for water and nutrients. Living Mulches add organic material into the soil without disturbing it. They can add nutrients to the soil, including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, calcium, and micronutrients, Living mulches can also inhibit pests depending on how they are managed and what plants they are being grown with.

Cover Crops are plants grown either with, before, or after the main vegetable crop. Cover crops are a great tool for managing many species of weeds. A vigorous, fast growing cover crop competes with weeds, for light, space, nutrients, and moisture. Be aware that a poorly managed cover crop can result in a weedy mess.

Which one to use?

Annual or Perennial Cover Crop

Annual crops such as Austrian Field Peas will grow quickly providing more nitrogen during growth period
Best if planted in spring

Perennial crops such as Winter Rye should be left for one year and be planted before the end of August

Perennial Living Mulches plant in late summer/early fall or in spring

Austrian Winter Pea

-Green manure
–Good source of nitrogen
-Plow in ground after flowering

Alsike Clover

-requires moisture for establishment and maintain good growth
-prefers cooler temperatures
-Good choice for areas that receive heavy foot traffic

Winter Rye

-Vigorous and hardy
-can plant in late season
-Breaks up hard soil
-Green manure
-Winter cover crop
Can plant with Winter Pea

Dutch White Clover

-requires moisture for establishment and maintain good growth
-prefers cooler temperatures
-Good choice for areas that receive heavy foot traffic

Buck Wheat

Germinates in 3-5 days, cut down within 7 10 days after flowering
-Adds phosphorus and calcium to soil
Protects late fall plantings of slow starting crops
Good protects soil
Wait a minimum of 3 weeks once turned into soil for it to decompose before planting
Winter kills

Berseem Clover

Grows 12-24”
Mow prior to blooming
Rapid germination
Used for keeping weeds down between rows or during fallow season
Does not do well in clay soil
Winter Kills
Yellow flower

Plow down

Contains a Mix of the following:

35% Austrian Winter Pea-Green manure, good source of nitrogen, plow in after flowering
30% Cereal Rye-good for cool season annual, upright growth, holds soil in place, fast fall growth, germination and growth at low temperatures
10% Buckwheat-germinates in 3-5 days, cut down 7-10 days after flowering, adds phosphorus and calcium, protects late fall planting of slow staring crops, winter kills
10% Hairy Vetch- vine like growth less vigorous in Montana, grows slow in the fall but root development continues into the spring, adds nitrogen to soil, helps smoother spring weeds, and drought tolerant
5% Canola- good for pest management, erosion control, deep tillage, winter kill, cool season annual, attracts pollinators