Cover crops are used for different reason across the world. The idea behind placing a cover crop in a nursery setting is to improve soil quality and increase organic matter. Soybeans are used as a cover crop throughout empty tree rows at Spring Grove Nursery, Inc. Soybeans will be planted in the Spring after a row of trees have been dug and the ground has been prepared. That fall the soybeans will be harvested and the following Spring a new crop of trees will be placed in.

Cover crops can improve soils fertility by adding or eliminating nutrients that are important to plant growth. Often times, nitrogen that is released into the ground after a cover crop is planted can eat away at the certain nutrients that were left behind after harvesting of the good. This is known to balance out the soils PH to prepare the soil for the best crop the following year. 

Other benefits to cover crops- 

  • Erosion control
  • Fertility improvements
  • Weed suppression
  • Insect Control
  • Nutrient retention/availability
Don't always look at covers crops as being a large operation. It is recommended and encouraged to use cover crops in your own personal vegetable garden. Peas, hairy vetch, wheat, oats, and grains rye are suggested after you have harvested all vegetables before winter. Be sure to till the cover crop up before it goes into seed and 3-6 weeks before planting your new vegetable crop. 

Below is quick information from Becky Thomas of Spring Grove Nursery, as well as great pictures of last years cover crops. 
"Our new crop of soybeans is up in the nursery! We use soybeans as our cover crop on areas in our field while the land is in between tree crops. The soybeans help add nitrogen back into the soil while holding our soil in place during the season as protection from wind & water erosion. Caring for our soil is a top priority at the nursery. 

As we have mentioned before, Becky is the 5th generation on our family farm. We have kept our farms productive & healthy for so long by taking the utmost care of our soil. Becky’s Dad, Doug Harford, was one of the first farmers in the US to implement no-till farm management in his corn & soybean operation. Through years of no-till farming, our soil has become naturally porous & rich in organic matter.

By using cover crops & minimal tillage in the nursery, we can continue the legacy of conservation started many years ago on our land. We are proud to pass on healthy soils to the next generation!

PS: Shout out to Becky’s brother, Chris Harford for planting & harvesting our soybeans. Thanks, Bro!"- BECKY THOMAS



Check out these websites for more information on the benefits of cover crops... 

- Illinois. Gov

- University of Illinois Extension

- United States Department of Agriculture