Cover Crops

We grow cover crops on otherwise unused parts of our fields throughout the year. They help add organic matter to the soil (removing carbon from the atmosphere!), and prevent soil erosion and nutrient loss. Some, such as buckwheat, are also favorite forage sources for the bees. Others, like hairy vetch, add nitrogen to the soil.

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A winter-rye/ hairy vetch cover crop mix. Winter rye and hairy vetch are very cold-hardy. We plant them in the fall and they survive through the winter, and then grow quickly in the early spring, before we plow them under.

 

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Nitrogen-fixing bacteria convert nitrogen from the air into a form that plants can use (NH3) within these nodules on hairy vetch roots.
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A mix of hairy vetch, winter rye, and crimson clover. All three survive the winter, and the vetch and clover are popular with pollinators (bumble bees in particular) in the spring.
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Buckwheat provides forage for honey bees.
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A mix of oats and field peas. This mix is planted in the fall, but is killed by cold winter temperatures. In the spring, we can plant into the cover crop residue and use it as a mulch. As an added bonus, field peas add nitrogen to the soil.
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We’ve added Dutch clover to our lawn, making it into a source of nectar to the bees.