ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Planting Cover Crops in Your Garden

Updated on July 12, 2010

Have you ever driven past farms in the middle of winter and seen crops in the fields? I often wondered what kind of farmer would let their crops get ruined by cold, harsh winters. Now I know that they were actually growing cover crops - which are very beneficial for the soil. Cover crops are easy to grow and will help your soil tremendously.

A cover crop is a crop grown during a soil's resting period to help regenerate the soil. For some farmers, this is in the summer months, for many it is in the winter. It is beneficial to a farm to rotate crops, letting a field rest a season every few years. But I have learned that rather than having a rest, they should be planted with a beneficial cover crop.

There are several benefits to growing cover crops. First, having a crop growing or resting over the winter will prevent soil erosion. Good soil is a precious resource in my mind and I don't want it getting blown away or washed away if there is nothing there to hold it in place. Second, cover crops provide weed control. If you have a field or garden box with open soil, you had better believe that weeds will take hold there. Rather than spraying chemicals on that open soil, plant a cover crop. Weeds won't grow where something else is growing.

Third, cover crops add nutrients back into the soil. When a field rests, it does help the soil. Planting a cover crop, though, will benefit that field even more as it adds much needed nitrogen back into the soil. Plants typically will take certain nutrients out of the soil, while adding other nutrients back into the soil. It is a cycle that goes constantly. When a field rests barren the cycle stops momentarily. Planting a cover crop allows this cycle to continue, feeding the soil and the animals and microbes beneath the soil that keep the soil healthy.

Fourth, cover crops can help pest control. Cover crops help keep beneficial insects around. These beneficial insects help your garden. Fifth, looking out into the garden and seeing a crop growing is nicer than seeing bare fields.

There are several different types of cover crops that you can grow. Oats are very cold hardy, therefore making a good crop to grow after you have harvested your garden for the winter. Hairy vetch, rye and legumes are other winter cover crops that will work well. When planting cover crops to overwinter, you need to plant them early enough in the fall for the crops to grow. Then let the crops rest there over the winter. They will survive until a hard freeze and at that point, the roots will break down into the soil and make it more fertile. Depending on how large the cover crops are you can either work them into the soil in the spring or you can rake them away and add the dead plants to your compost pile.

For summer cover crops there are several options. Rather than letting a field produce nothing for the year, I prefer to plant a cold hardy spring crop of something like lettuce or peas. Then plant a cover crop such as buckwheat, soybeans, or sweet clover to grow over the summer. In the fall I can dig up the cover crop and have a late planting of other cold hardy plants like broccoli or spinach.

Cover crops are inexpensive and easy to grow, as you can simply plant the seeds and let nature take over. At the end of a long growing season it might seem like too much work and that it isn't worth it, but it is too beneficial to pass up. You don't have to grow a cover crop every single year, but if you can do it at least every few years, you will see a huge benefit in the quality of your soil.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • kingmaxler profile image


      5 years ago from Olympia, Washington USA

      Thank you. The information was greatly helpful. I cannot decide whether to put in oats or rye. We are still beginning gardeners and this is the next direction we will head in to create lusher growing vegetables

    • profile image

      Amie Warren 

      8 years ago

      Just started gardening and hubbing, so this is helpful. Thanks! I'm following you.

    • drcrischasse profile image

      Cristopher Chasse 

      8 years ago from Boston

      I did not realize that is what it was, thanks!

    • sweetie1 profile image


      8 years ago from India

      we in delhi never even own a garden leave aside a farm because of land shortage..but i did like ur blog

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 

      8 years ago from Great Britain

      Very interesting. Thank you for that. I had no idea.

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 

      8 years ago

      What a great suggestion! My son has a garden and I'll tell him about the benefits of doing this. I think he'd enjoy seeing something growing during the winter, too, rather than looking at dirt.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This is an excellent reminder to feed the soil. I try to plant one cover crop bed with fava beans not just for the benefit of the soil but for eating fava beans in spring. When is the optimum time to dig in a cover crop?

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for a timely advice because I would like to turn my backgarden into a vegetable garden and will just do that.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      8 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Cover crops are a win/win..! Great hub. Thanks. I had relatives who planted peanuts to enrich the soil with nitrogen.. and they were paid to do it.

    • GojiJuiceGoodness profile image


      8 years ago from Roanoke, Virginia

      One year we planted oats as a cover crop and it really helps keep down the weeds. And when you're ready to plant the "real" crop, oats aren't hard to pull or turn under.

    • bayoulady profile image


      8 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

      GOOD HUB!

      I don't garden much anymore. In days gone by, we had produce growing almost the whole year. My favorites were turnips and bibb lettuce.

    • dxszzcylm profile image


      8 years ago from China

      I have not driven past farms and wish some day can try it.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)