How I Interplant Nitrogen Fixing Cover Crops & Food Crops for the Fall

Today I harvested carrots and Yukon gold and all blue potatoes from the bed to my right, where this massive cushaw squash plant is growing. Then to keep the rest of the bed productive into the fall, I succession planted carrots, turnips, beets, kale, and collards. But I’m not done planting yet. Next I’ll enter plant nitrogen fixing cover crops between the kale and collards. In a recent video, I talked about how our crops get all the nitrogen they need, even though we don’t use nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrogen fixing cover crops helped make this possible. And now is a great time to plant them – as we harvest crops that were planted in the spring and we plant for the fall. Today, I’m going to plant a mix of legumes that work with nitrogen fixing bacteria in the soil to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere Into the soil. I’ll plant the cover crops between the kale and the collards but not here, where I intensively planted carrots, turnips, and beets. This metal grid is here to protect the seedlings from birds and squirrels. Okay, let’s get started. The mix I’m planting today contains a variety of cool weather cover crops, including bell beans, Biomaster peas, purple vetch, hairy vetch, common vetch, and cayuse oats. for $5.00 plus shipping I got enough of these seeds to last us two years in our small garden. This mix, according to the seller, can fix as much as 290 pounds of nitrogen per acre. I’ve provided a link to where I got the seeds in the description below. To plant them, I just create little one-inch deep furrows and generously plant the seeds. I’ll do these furrows about every inch or two inches. I just planted the kale and collards, so their roots haven’t spread out, so I shouldn’t be disturbing them. Then just tamp down the soil. Birds really like to eat these seeds, so I make sure to plant them at least an inch deep. When I planted them shallower than that, the birds have eaten the seeds. The first couple years I planted this mix, I used a rhizobia inoculant. to make sure there was enough nitrogen fixing bacteria in the soil. But after a couple years of applying it, I no longer use it because I’m confident there are rhizobia bacteria in the soil. Nitrogen fixing legumes like these need to grow two months to fix nitrogen. These will actually grow longer than that. Even though they’re cold hardy, though, they will die off in December, which means I won’t have to chop and drop them. When the nitrogen fixing cover crops die back from the cold, all of their plant residues will remain here in the bed, which means all of the nitrogen they fix from the atmosphere will also stay in the bed If you grow this makes in an area where the winters aren’t cold enough to kill off the crops, you’ll definitely want to chop and drop them before they go to seed. Because you don’t want them to self-sow. If they do self-sow, you might have a hard time getting rid of them. Winters in zone six and below should kill these cover crops. Okay, I’m going to finish up planting here. I’ll be back in a moment to apply some mulch, and I’ll show you what these cover crops will look like in a couple weeks. Okay, I’ve got the cover crop planted. Now I have carrots, beets, turnips, Cushaw squash, kale, collards, and a nitrogen fixing cover crop all growing in this four by eight bed. The cover crop makes me even more confident that this bed will get more than enough nitrogen even though we don’t use any nitrogen fertilizers. Now let’s put down a thin layer of mulch. I want enough mulch to maybe discourage the birds from eating the seeds but that’s so much that I suppress plant growth. This mulch is mostly pine needles and leaves. And I apply it very thin. Okay, I’ve got the mulch down now. Let’s take a look at what the cover crop will look like in a couple weeks. I planted the same cover crop mix here just a couple weeks ago, and as you can see it’s already doing very well. Just like with our kale and collards, I planted the mix here after planting Brussels sprouts for the fall. And I’ll continue the same process as I harvest crops that were planted in the spring and plant new fall crops. The cover crops should grow to be about a foot tall I I Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the one yard revolution garden as I succession plant for the fall and plant nitrogen fixing cover crops. If you did, please give the video a thumbs up. And if you haven’t already, please subscribe for more videos on how to grow a lot of food on a little land without spending much or working harder than you have to. Thanks, Oscar.

Bernard Jenkins


  1. I would buy it too! Clearly we would be getting info from more than books these days, but being tied to the internet is not exactly something I want to bring into the garden. A good cuppa and a gardening book is the perfect start to my summer mornings!

  2. I really like your information but I'm wondering if interplanting these cover crops doesn't "take away" nutrients from your main crop; they look like weeds that I would normally remove. Cheers and thanks for posting.

  3. I was just looking at this site for cover crops, I was sent there by Justin Rhodes BUT am glad to see another gardener I respect using their stuff as well. I have some tough soil to build. Thanks!

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