UGA Extension – Franklin County

Fall Cover Crop

Can’t decide what you want to do with your garden spot this fall. Maybe you have planted a cool season garden in the past and you just don’t want to this year for one reason or another, but you also don’t want your garden to be taken over with weeds when spring rolls back around and you are getting ready for planting. So what to do, try planning a cover crop. Cover crops have a nice appearance as well as helping to control soil erosion.

Cover crops also add rich, organic nutrients when they are tilled in the spring. A combination cover crop of a small grain (wheat, rye or oats) mixed with a legume (clover or Austrian winter peas) works well. The small grain serves as a nurse and protects the slower germinating clover or peas. Make sure that you are not using rye grass it can stick around in the spring and interfere with desired crops.

Clover is a very small seed, so mixed with wheat, it takes a pound or less to cover the average garden. Clover must be inoculated if it is not inoculated when you buy it. Inoculation covers the seed in black, powdered bacteria that helps digest the seed coat and increases germination.

The best way to inoculate seed is to combine the seed and a bag of inoculant in a small bucket with a little soft drink. Hand-mix the seed, inoculant and soft drink so that the seed is thoroughly combined with the black powder and soft drink. Use just enough soft drink to help the bacteria stick to the seed. Next, mix in a few pounds of small grain, such as wheat, and spread the mixture with a hand spreader on a tilled garden.

You can also add a few pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet of garden. Over time, the clover will produce its own nitrogen and assist the wheat. A soil test will identify the soil’s pH and provide lime recommendations. This is of vital importance to your spring garden as lime takes time to break down, so for best results you need to plan ahead with lime applications.  A good cover crop can go a long way in helping you achieve the garden of your dreams in the spring. For questions on cover crops and other agriculture issues please contact the UGA extension office in Carnesville or check out our blog at site.extension.uga.edu/franklin/