Cover crops are also called "green manure" and sometimes, "living mulch." They are plants that are grown to suppress weeds, help build and improve soil, and control diseases and pests. Here are the top five cover crop choices for the small farm or homestead - figure out which one best meets your farmstead's needs!
Rye - winter rye or cereal rye - is a great cover crop to plant in the fall or early winter. It excels at loosening compacted soil and is good for weed suppression too. It also catches excess nitrogen in the soil.
Buckwheat grows very quickly. It makes great ground cover to prevent erosion and does suppress weeds. Because of its fast-growing nature, it can be interplanted with other crops, and it can be planted late in summer.
Crimson clover, red clover, and white Dutch clover are all used as cover crops. Clover fixes nitrogen in the soil and is great for adding fertility to your soil. Yellow clover is perfect for improving soil structure.
Sorghum-Sudangrass is a hybrid crop that grows quickly and forms an extensive root structure. Use it to suppress weeds and protect your soil from erosion. It also adds biomass to the soil since it grows so tall.
Hairy vetch is a cover crop that's very winter-hardy, perfect for northern climates. It also adds a lot of nitrogen to the soil - if allowed to grow over the winter into May, it can add an incredible amount of fertility to the soil.