How Late Is Too Late? We get this question all of the time when it comes to fall planting cover crops. The answer of course, will depend on where you are located and what your current and forecasted conditions are. We base many of our recommendations off of the average first frost date for your area, but it can change based on weather patterns. For example, here in Nebraska our average first frost is October 7th (this week), but our soils are still warm and our 10 day forecast is highs in the 70’s and 80’s with lows in the upper 40’s and 50’s. This warmer weather will shift our recommendations to plant later than in a “normal” year. Here are some general guidelines we like to use when helping and customers and friends with planting recommendations.
Winter Peas and Hairy Vetch
Consider winter peas planting dates similar to when you would plant winter wheat in your area – if you feel comfortable planting wheat yet, go ahead and add winter peas. Planting deep will help protect the growing point through the winter and lead to better survival. Hairy vetch is the most cold hardy of all of the legumes and we would plant this at least 2 weeks past our average first frost date – and with warmer weather, we might plant hairy vetch all the way to first of November here. Just remember, the later it gets planted, the slower it will be taking off in the spring, so be ready to be patient and give it time to grow in the spring.
If you are further south then you can certainly still use crimson clover, balansa clover, spring peas, faba beans and common vetch. How late you can go with these again will depend on how far south you are.
Cosaque Winter Black Oats and Annual Rye Grass
We like to see these in the ground a couple of weeks before the first frost if possible
Triticale and Winter Wheat
We have no problem planting these cold hard cereals 2-3 weeks after your average first frost date and you can expect them to do just fine come spring.
If you can get the drill in the ground, it is not too late to plant cereal rye. We have had successful plantings through December with cereal rye so when it is too late for everything else, you can still give cereal rye a chance. It will spout at 34 degrees so it will almost always successfully vernalize and be ready to take off and grow fast with the late winter/early spring warm-up. You will want to compensate for the lack of tillering from a late planting with an increased seeding rate.
Mustards – 3 weeks before first frost
Radishes – 1 week before first frost
Turnips – up to first frost
Collards, Rapeseed and Kale – 1-2 weeks after frost
Again, these are just general guidelines and as we move south in geography, there are lots more options that will work. We are here to help and to serve so please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any cover crop questions that you might have.
Have a safe and bountiful harvest!