Skip to main content

The best plants to include when planting a cover crop this season

Cover crops can provide a lot of benefits for your garden. They can help your soil recover nutrients, choke out weeds, and stop your soil from eroding if you don’t plan on growing a full garden. There are plenty of plants that make good cover crops, but if you’re determined to have only the best for your garden then you’re in luck. These five plants are some of the best cover crops to start with. Not sure which one to choose? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about them to make your decision.


Clover is a favorite cover crop of many gardeners. It grows quickly and covers a wide area without much effort, is low maintenance, and is a nitrogen-fixing plant. This means that bacteria in the soil work with the clover plant to take nitrogen from the air and move it into the soil. Additionally, clover is easy to deal with once you’re done with your cover crop and ready to plant your vegetable or flower garden. It can be a source of food if you have a pet rabbit, but it is more commonly composted or used as green manure. There are several varieties of clover, but the most popular choice for cover crops is crimson clover.

Clover prefers full sun to partial shade, but struggles to thrive in full shade. When you scatter the clover seeds, make sure the soil is moist, and keep it moist while the seeds germinate. Once the clover has established itself, water it when the soil dries. In most mild climates, clover can survive off of rainfall alone.


Oats are a popular choice for cool weather cover crops. Oats grow thickly, keeping encroaching weeds out of your garden with its many stems and extensive root system. It’s an especially good choice if your soil is low in phosphorus. While you can grow them to fruition and harvest some tasty grains, oats are most effective as a cover crop if they’re made into green manure while they’re still green.

Oats are best planted in early spring or fall, when the weather is cool. Oats are tolerant of many soil types and conditions, but they don’t do well in the heat. Although most oats are somewhat drought tolerant, they prefer damp or moist soil.

A patch of young green oats
Image used with permission by copyright holder


Perennial ryegrass is a popular choice for lawns, but it can be an effective cover crop in gardens as well. Ryegrass isn’t the best cover crop if you’re looking to improve your soil quality, as it doesn’t add much back to the soil. However, it’s easy to grow and one of the most effective cover crops when it comes to weed control. As an added bonus, you can begin growing it while you’re still harvesting your vegetable garden. Ryegrass is a cool weather grass, so it’s an excellent choice for a fall or winter cover crop. When you’re ready to grow your next garden, you can mow the grass down and mix what’s left into the soil to act as a green manure.


Vetch may have an unpleasant sounding name, but this hardy plant from the legume family makes a wonderful cover crop. Vetch is a great option for both established gardens and new, untested plots of land. It’s tolerant of most soil types, pHs, and climates. Additionally, like most of its relatives in the legume family, vetch is a nitrogen-fixing plant. Hairy vetch is the variety that is most commonly used as a cover crop, and you may find yourself enjoying its flowers as well as its benefits to your soil!

A patch of hairy vetch
Image used with permission by copyright holder


If you live in an area with a hotter climate, then some of the more common fall cover crops may not be ideal. Buckwheat, however, might be just what you need. Buckwheat is a heat-loving, cold-sensitive cover crop. It’s often planted as a summer cover crop, but can also be planted as a fall cover crop in less mild climates. Buckwheat works well for keeping weeds at bay, and, when cut down and mixed into the soil as a green manure, it can add valuable nutrients to your soil. Avoid planting buckwheat less than a month and a half before the first frost of the year, and make sure it has plenty of water.

Whether your goal is to smother weeds or enrich your soil, these five plants have you covered. Don’t forget, you can mix and match these cover crops, too. A mixture of ryegrass and clover can give you massive benefits with minimal effort. Just be sure you’re mixing plants that need the same things, and, when you’re done, you can cut the plants down, mix them into the soil, and start your next vegetable garden.

Cayla Leonard
Cayla Leonard is a writer from North Carolina who is passionate about plants.  She enjoys reading and writing fiction and…
The best mulch for your yard: A complete guide
Tips for choosing the right mulch for your garden
Gloved hands applying red cedar wood chip mulch

Mulch is a useful garden tool. It can keep your plants warm in the winter, increase water retention, and suppress weeds. For such a simple tool, there are a lot of different types of mulch to choose from. If you’re not sure which type of mulch to choose, then we’re here to help. This guide will help you choose the best mulch for your garden based on what your plants need. We’ll also mention a few types of mulch you should avoid, so you can choose your mulch with confidence.
Leaf mulch

Leaf mulch is made from fallen leaves, which are shredded and layered around plants. It gives your plants all the basic benefits of mulch, with a few extras as a bonus! Leaf mulch breaks down over time, adding nutrients to your soil as it does so. Leaf mulch is also easy to make at home if you have trees in your yard, making it more convenient than other mulches.

Read more
The best time to prune dogwood trees: Everything you need to know about dogwood care
How to grow a lush and thriving dogwood tree
Dogwood tree with pink flowers

Dogwood trees are a great choice for almost any garden or yard. They’re medium-sized with lovely flowers in white or pink and grow bright red berries that birds love to eat. If you’ve decided to add a dogwood tree to your life, but aren’t sure how to care for it, then you’re in luck! In this helpful guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to make sure your new tree thrives, from how to plant your sapling to when the best time to prune dogwood trees is.

After choosing your dogwood tree, the first thing you’ll want to do is put it in the ground. Before that, however, you have to choose a planting site. Dogwoods, being shorter trees, are understory trees. This means that, in the wild, they’re shaded and protected by taller trees. Keep this in mind when choosing where to plant your dogwood, and select somewhere with morning sun and afternoon shade. In milder climates, you can plant them in full sun, but remember they’ll need to be watered more frequently.

Read more
When do hydrangeas bloom? (and 4 reasons yours aren’t)
Encourage your hydrangeas to bloom on time
Blue and pink hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are known for their color-changing quirk and large, showy flowers. These lovely plants are relatively easy to grow and come in many fantastic forms, but when do hydrangeas bloom? More importantly, for many gardeners, what should you do if your hydrangeas aren’t blooming? This guide will answer all your questions about when and how often hydrangeas flower, why yours might not be blooming, and what you can do to encourage them to bloom.
When do hydrangeas bloom?

In general, hydrangeas bloom from mid-spring to early fall, but not all hydrangeas bloom at the same time. Depending on the type of hydrangea you have, you might see flowers from spring to summer or from summer to fall. You can expect to see oakleaf and French hydrangeas blooming through spring and summer, while bigleaf, panicle, and smooth hydrangeas typically bloom from summer to fall.

Read more