President’s Note: Cover Crop Timing

cover crop timing

Research has shown timing in planting a fall cover crop is critical for both coverage over the winter and biomass production the following spring. Usually, in the south, cover crops are planted from mid-September until mid-October.

This year we ran into problems with the cover crop in our elderberry trials. We purchased Elbon rye to plant, but needed to wait for a rain to plant, due to the drought this summer.

Unfortunately it didn’t start raining until early November, so we did not plant our seed. Rye seed from last year’s cover crop did volunteer, and started growing in November, but it has not established very good coverage. It looks good in the photo, but the plants are short, so there is not much ground coverage at this point.

If planted in September, grain rye will have wide blue-green leaves and reach above your ankles. It completely covers the ground, suppressing winter weeds. Of all the cover crops, rye seems to do the best if it happens to be planted late. We will see how it does next spring, but it does show how important planting time is to having a successful cover crop.

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