Winter Ground Covers Rye Cover Crop

Cover growing with a rye cover crop is an easy way to keep your soil profile healthy and in place without using it for your subsequent crops. An inactive season can cause the soil to erode and lose nutrients, but a grain rye cover crop can prevent this. Using a cereal rye cover crop is a good idea because you can use a cut-and-drop method to return nitrogen to the soil, which means that your next crop won’t need as much fertilizer.

Cover cultivation is often used by farmers or gardeners who cultivate on a large scale, but backyard gardeners can also make use of this “trick” of nature. It is an easy way to provide much needed nutrients in the spring and suppress weeds during the cold months. Why wouldn’t you want to make your life easier?

What Are Cover Crops?

Cover crops are another way to “work smarter, not harder” in the garden. They are planted in areas where they are not currently cultivated to protect the soil surface from erosion. Many people use cover crop seeds to rejuvenate the soil after they have been used for a while.

On a large scale, farmers will cover entire fields with cover crops to prevent the wind from carrying away all the earth or snow, which will cause the soil to freeze and compact. This method is often used with crop rotation, before planting corn or other cash crop. While you are not using a space for what you usually grow, you can grow a cover crop instead so that it is full of nutrients the next time you use it.

On a smaller scale, you can plant cover crops for raised beds, similar to the way farmers manage their fields. You can also plant cover crops between rows of vegetables or fruits to suppress weeds.

Types of Cover Crops

Almost any plant can be a cover crop, but there are categories that you can use in the garden. Each one offers different benefits, so you need to decide which type will work best for you based on your needs.


Brassicas are a good cover crop because you can eat your harvest. This family of winter-hardy crops will survive the winter in many areas and capture nutrients, catch nematodes and other pests, and stop soil erosion by covering the area with its large leaves. Try growing collard greens as a cover crop in one area of your garden.

Broad-Leaved Plants

Other cover crops, such as non-brassica broadleaf plants or legumes, are an excellent choice because they grow quickly and offer many of the same benefits as brassicas. You can eat your crop or chop and drop plants like spinach to nourish your next round of crops. Yields vary as much or as little as you want.


Grasses such as cereal rye, barley, standing corn or oats are almost always used as with the cut-and-release method because they release nitrogen and carbon into the soil. They are also used in the cultivation of cereals. Nutrients from cereal grains will help your next crops develop deep root systems and abundant foliage. Grasses are also used because they have deep roots that will hold the soil in place and will be easy to till. Use high planting rates to get a good amount of grain or nutrients from these.


If your beds need nitrogen, legume cover crops are the way to go. Legumes such as beans and peas fix nitrogen, so they will replenish the soil as they grow. They grow and decompose quickly, which makes them an obvious choice for your garden beds. In addition, he can eat the harvest and cut and release the foliage. Some examples of legume cover crops include a massive planting of beans, hairy vetch or peas.

Benefits of Cover Cultivation

The list of benefits is long when it comes to cover crops. Regardless of how you grow your garden, there is surely a way to make cover crops benefit you.

Reduces erosion – An empty field or flower bed will lose land due to wind or overflow. When you cover an unused area with cover crops, the soil will mostly stay still because the roots anchor it down and vice versa. Soil moisture will also be retained. Cover cultivation is necessary on farms in windy areas, but home gardeners can also benefit from this practice.

Keeps the soil arable: Root systems keep the soil loose and prevent compaction, making it easier to till the soil. Loose soil will make it easier for young roots to navigate, resulting in stronger root systems and healthier plants.

A quick fix: While it depends on the plant, many cover crops grow quickly, even when temperatures are cold. You can plant most cover crops in the fall and reap the rewards in early spring before planting your next batch of seeds.

Weed Suppression: Weed control is one of the biggest benefits for the home gardener. If the soil is covered by the plants you want, there will be few opportunities for weeds to get into your garden.

Retain soil moisture – Loose soil will prevent water runoff, and winter crops will catch snow so that it melts where it needs water most.

Maintain soil fertility: As you continuously use an area for cultivation, the soil quality will continue to develop over time. Almost any plant will have a positive effect, but cut-and-fall crops and legumes (such as hairy vetch) are particularly useful.

Benefit to wildlife: The continued availability of plants will benefit wildlife, which means you will see more pollinators and birds. Your cover crops will harbor beneficial insects and bring nature back to your garden, which will help you have a more abundant harvest.

What Is Rye?

Rye is a type of grass that is used as a cover crop. It is similar to other grasses such as oats or barley and can be used to make bread, flour and cereals. Cereal rye is used specifically for the manufacture of cereals and is a common vegetable dressing because it offers many benefits.

Rye can also be used to feed livestock. People plant rye to build residual soil for the establishment of future crops, prevent the appearance of weeds and build biomass in the soil.

Advantages of a Rye Cover Crop

While you may not use rye to make baked goods at home, you can certainly use it to improve your soil! However, there are varieties of rye that can be used absolutely the same as wheat or barley.

Ryegrass, especially cereal rye, is common because it can withstand cold temperatures and will grow quickly. It can germinate at temperatures up to 33°F, and mature plants can withstand temperatures as low as -30°F. When planting rye, you can choose a after planting date in the autumn season, which will allow you to benefit from your autumn crops as long as possible.

Rye has a deep root system, so it is ideal for breaking up compacted soil or preventing compaction. Rye biomass and crop residues will also help retain moisture and allow water and nutrients to penetrate deep into the soil, which will greatly increase the health of the soil. This makes it suitable for almost any type of soil. Add that it is drought tolerant and has a large harvest on hand.

Cons of a Rye Cover Crop

The biggest concern of rye as a cover crop is allelopathy. Some plants inhibit the growth of others, and rye can prevent seeds from germinating for various plants, especially corn, corn silage, or other cereal grains. You can avoid this by waiting at least two weeks before planting seeds in the same area as your rye. Spring rains can cause rye residues to remain, which could damage your next planting.

Another major concern is related to nitrogen fixation. Rye is able to retain (steal) nitrogen from the soil if it does not leave the root system or uses the cut-and-release method. Rye absorbs nitrogen as it grows, but returning the plants to the soil once you cut them will add organic matter, returning the nutrients. If you choose to use rye fields as mulch or for feeding animals, you risk stripping the soil of a much-needed nutrient.

Rye is a winter annual plant that needs a cold climate to thrive, so you will not see great results if you try to grow it in warm climates where it is not very cold in winter. Barley or oats are good alternatives if you live in a hot place, but they will experience winter dormancy or winter passed away.