I’ve been called out for not recommending the planting of cover crops earlier in this blog. Okay, guilty! Cover crops, especially legumes, are best planted a couple weeks ahead of the first killing frost — as if our changing weather patterns give us any clue as to when that’s going to happen — to give them time to germinate. Legumes usually take longer to germinate. But if you haven’t planted? Experience tells us it’s not too late, depending on your climate and the precautions you take.
Grasses — ryegrass, winter rye, winter wheat and wheat grass, oats — germinate more quickly and there fore are more suitable for late planting. But some legumes — hairy vetch for example – are more adaptable to cold climates and will germinate if planted late, especially if you get a string of warm days in the late season. Buckwheat is a good grass choice for colder climates. Not only does it germinate more quickly than legumes, it’s a quick grower.
Both legumes and grasses will germinate under cover of mulch if the mulch isn’t spread too deeply. And the mulch will help protect young spouts from cold damage — a must if planted this late — as well as give them a boost in the spring. Here’s a chart (PDF format) of best cover crops for different areas of the country. (more…)