Pasture vs. Cover Crops before Vegetables?

I’m trying to decide about building fertility for next years vegetable garden. I have a piece of land that has been traditionally cash cropped (corn/soybean), and has been under pasture for the last two years. I aim to put it into vegetable production next year (2018). I’m trying to decide if i should leave it in pasture this year, or if i should till it up, and aggressively cover crop (oats and peas, followed by buckwheat, followed by tillage radish and something else that winter kills.
The main goal is introduce lots of fertility and organic matter prior to the vegetables.

Is the aggressive round of cover cropping worth the time and money?

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I would say so! We also took over a conventional field (corn/soybean) and the difference our cover cropping made (oats/red clover) to this field was nothing short of a miracle given how battered it was when we took it over, and the pasture component should give you a nice SOM boost compared to our field.

The only thing about your chosen mix of succession cover crops is to make sure you leave enough time for the tillage radish to grow to a sizable length (or else… what’s the point?), so get the buckwheat in early enough to give it time to reach the flowering stage and also time to work it in and then sow your final cover crop. Also, your tillage radish will be fishing out a lot of micro/macro nutrients from the depths of your soil profile, so you’re going to want to protect some of the more mobile nutrients from leaching in the spring with a quick-growing cover crop (or crop).

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agree with Denis 100 percent.might suggest crimson clover,buckwheat,radish.hairy vetch etc after your oats and peas.multi species cover crops will scavenge for nutrients,loosen the soil promote earthworms add organic matter to the soil and all will be killed by fall or early winter frost.Dave…


I have a similar situation to clovercroftfarm (just posted about it in cover cropping)- I was thinking that I would do peas/oats followed by winter rye (because time is not on my side anymore :frowning: - super slow on the cover cropping front! What do you think about this combo?

if we keep getting moisture you may be ok with peas and oats,however they are more of cool season type crops and if we get our usual hot dry conditions in july and august you may be disappointed.there is still lots of moisture for crimson clover and or hairy vetch which will put a lot of nitrogen in the soil and promote earthworms .You could do them in combination with the oats and peas.multi species cover crops generally do the best.We were late putting in a field of silage corn after a rye cover crop and plan to broadcast hairy vetch and crimson clover over it next week.I expect good results with them and they will be terminated this fall by freeze up.Dave…

I agree those won’t germinate super well in hot weather, and if you hit a dry spell you will feel like you threw your money away on those seeds. You might want to go with something safer, or do a 4-5 way mix to spread out the risk. Some buckwheat would likely do well this time of year.