This cereal grain is used as a winter cover crop and is often grown with vetch and/or a legume such as a clover or hairy vetch. Planted in September, it will continue to grow through the cold temperatures of late fall longer than other cover crops. Rye is good because it prospers in poor soils and requires minimal precipitation. Over-wintering, rye helps hold moisture in the soil and prevents weeds due to its allelopathic nature. Its early spring growth will help to protect the soil from erosion and weeds. The roots are vigorous and deep and will add lots of organic matter. The best time to ‘terminate’ the rye is to cut it down to the crown when the rye is immature (about 6-12 inches tall). After cutting, wait until the soil is dry and cut the grass crowns off just under the soil level and plant ‘no-till’ through the roots or till the crowns under with a fork or roto-tiller. Doing this to the immature rye will help release the nitrogen that is held up during the decaying process sooner, making it available to the newly planted seeds and avoiding volunteer rye plants popping up later. Plan to sow subsequent garden vegetable seeds at least 2 weeks from tilling to allow the decaying process to finish and the nitrogen to be released back into the soil. An alternate method is to let the rye flower and just form seed heads before cutting down. Do not let the seeds mature. This allows the root system to get well established and helps to break up the garden soil more, adding more organic matter deep down. The stalks become tough and woody, so terminating the rye at this point is a bit more labor-intensive. The stalks can be chopped into smaller bits and used as mulch or turned back into the soil. The rye crowns will still need to be cut under the soil surface to keep the plant from regrowing.
Small Areas: 1-4 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. Depending on your preference as a cover crop
Larger Areas: 100 lbs. per acre
Avg. 19,900 seeds/lb
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