Print This Page


Winter Cover Crops – The best winter cover crops are rye, wheat, oats, ryegrass, hairy vetch, and other legumes. All may be sown from mid August to mid October, so they are well established before the frosts begin. During winter they hold the soil in place and prevent erosion. Winter cover crops usually feature large fibrous root systems that add organic matter to garden soil when plowed or spaded under. Plowing or spading is done in the spring. They are mostly used as green manure. The seeds of grasses and legumes should be mixed together 50/50. Shallow rooted grasses take nitrogen and moisture from the shallow soil. Legumes have deep roots and take nutrients and moistures from deep in the soil.




Lolium multiflorum – LO-lee-um mul-tee-FLOOR-um






HABIT: Erect, robust cool season bunch grass that reaches a height of 3 to 4 feet. Seedlings quickly establish a ground cover and are very competitive.


CULTURE: Tolerant of a wide range of soils and climates but is best adapted to valley and coastal areas with long seasons of cool, moist weather. Tolerates cold and can germinate in cooler soils than can grow on sandy soils but does best on heavier clay or silty soils with adequate drainage. Tolerates extended wet periods and temporary flooding. Is moderately shade tolerant.


USES: Winter cover crop, lawn. Soil protection and weed suppression. Used on poor soils. Heavy feeder and can be used to scavenge nitrogen from the soil during the fall and winter.


PROBLEMS: Competes well with most weeds, few aphids.


NOTES: Fall planting dates are from mid September to mid October.




SEEDING RATE: 5-7 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.


About 6-8 weeks before the first average freeze date (September 15-October 15 in North Texas), scalp the turf and remove the clippings to the compost pile. Broadcast perennial ryegrass at 5-10 lbs./1,000 square feet. Other cool season grasses, legumes and clovers are planted in the same manner.



Winter rye grass



Lolium perenne – LOW-lee-um




HABIT: Cool season turf grass native to Europe, temperate Asia and North Africa. Resembles annual ryegrass but has more leaves in the lower part of the plant. The leaves are also thinner than annual ryegrass.


CULTURE: Tolerant of a wide range of soils and preferred as a winter overseeding grass since it is easier to get rid of in the spring and is less competition to the summer grasses. Fertilize once during the growing season and mow weekly.


USES: Lawn grass, livestock grazing forage.


PROBLEMS: Grubworms and various fungal diseases.


NOTES Best choice for winter overseeding.




SEEDING RATES: 5-7 lbs. per 1,000 square feet.





  Search Library Topics      Search Newspaper Columns