Video Clip: Winter Cover Crop - Hairy Vetch and Rye from Vegetable Farmers and their Innovative Cover Cropping Techniques


Farmers and their Innovative Cover Cropping Techniques [DVD]. V. Grubinger. 2006. University of Vermont Extension. Available for purchase from: (Verified 31 Dec 2008).

This is a Vegetable Farmers and their Innovative Cover Cropping Techniques video clip.

Watch video clip at


Hank Bissell, Lewis Creek Farm. Starksboro, VT.

Audio Text

Winter rye is the basic cover crop that most people use. I used to just grow winter rye and about 10 yeas ago I started growing hairy vetch in with the rye. Hairy vetch is a winter annual, it’s planted in the fall, puts on a little bit of growth, stays alive through the winter and then puts on a lot of growth in the spring, much the way rye does.

Without nodulation the vetch wouldn’t fix any nitrogen. When I first started growing vetch, I inoculated it every year. I’m much more casual about it now, sometimes I don’t inoculate it at all. This field was not inoculated last fall and it does have nodules on it. Now that I’ve grown it all over my farm the inoculant is resident in the fields.

When I plow rye and hairy vetch down at this stage for a crop, sweet corn for instance, I find that I can do without most of the nitrogen, normal nitrogen applications. I do put on a starter, I put on about 30 pounds with a starter mix, 30 pounds of nitrogen, then I keep track of it with a pre-sidedress nitrogen test. To see, if we’ve got heavy rains, we might lose a lot of it. I find that the amount of nitrogen that rye and hairy vetch produces will feed early to mid season varieties of corn completely. So corn up to about 5 feet high. When you get into those big late varieties they seem to be using enough more nitrogen that it requires an additional side dressing.

This video project was funded in part by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (USDA).  

Published June 9, 2011

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.