Hairy Vetch cover crop seed

$3.50 per pound

Hairy vetch is a cover crop that is an attractive option for many growers in Massachusetts. It is hardy enough to survive the harsh winters of New England and can add significant amounts of nitrogen to the soil if allowed to grow long enough.

Hairy vetch is a legume which means that it lives in a close relationship with rhizobia bacteria that invade and establish themselves in the roots of the plant as it grows. These bacteria take nitrogen from the atmosphere (which is about 80 % N2) and make it available to the plant in a usable form. In return for the nitrogen, the legume gives the bacteria carbohydrates.

It is very important that the appropriate rhizobia species is used for hairy vetch (the rhizobia for hairy vetch will work for all vetches and peas). Without the rhizobia the vetch will not give the desired effects.

The rhizobia can survive in the soil for up to five years in the absence of their host plant. If you are seeding a legume in a field where that plant has been successfully grown in the past few years, then the rhizobia might not have to be added. However, if you are in doubt it is always best to add the rhizobia since it is easy and inexpensive.

The easiest way to add the rhizobia to the vetch is to add a little water to the seed (enough to make the seed moist but not so much that it clumps) and then to mix in the inoculant so that it sticks to the seed.

When left to grow long enough hairy vetch has supplied over 100 lbs/acre of nitrogen. We have observed excellent yields from crops such as sweet corn, peppers and broccoli following the incorporation of hairy vetch with no added nitrogen fertilizer. The amount of nitrogen you get from this cover crop will depend greatly on the amount of time you let it grow.

It is recommended to mix vetch with either winter rye or oat. There are several reasons for this:

  • Both oat and winter rye are very efficient in taking up nitrogen from the soil (remember, the vetch is getting most of its nitrogen from the atmosphere, so it does not need much from the soil). By taking up more nitrogen in the late summer and fall we are reducing the risk of contaminating surface or ground water and the nitrogen is recycled so that it can be used by next years cash crop.
  • The oat and rye can produce tremendous amounts of valuable organic matter if allowed to grow long enough.
  • Both of these cover crops will give better erosion control than vetch alone since they emerge and establish themselves more quickly than vetch.

The above info has been sourced from UMass Extension Vegetable Program

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SKU: 15255 Category: Cover Crop Seed