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13 Best Cover Crops for Raised Beds and Why to Use Them

A cover crop is planted between crops to help protect the soil and reduce erosion. Cover crops have many benefits, including reducing soil erosion, providing wildlife habitat, and increasing soil organic matter. Cover crops help to prevent soil moisture loss and improve infiltration and water retention.

13 Best Cover Crops for Raised Beds

They can also help control weeds, improve nutrient uptake, and increase soil health. In addition, cover crops can provide economic benefits by helping to reduce cultivation costs and improving land productivity. Many different types of cover crops can be used for raised beds. Each has its benefits and drawbacks, so it is important to choose the right one for your specific situation.

13 best cover crops for raised beds


Oats are a great cover crop for raised beds because they grow quickly, tolerate disturbance, and tolerate wet and dry conditions. They also have a high biomass yield, making them an efficient way to produce food for your garden. You should apply nitrogen before planting Oats so that they can capture and hold onto the nitrogen in the soil.

You can also add phosphorus to the mix if needed. Once the Oats grow, keep an eye on them and prevent them from overlapping. This will help ensure good air circulation and minimize competition for water and nutrients. Also, remove any dead or diseased plants so the rest of the crop can thrive.

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Hairy Vetch

Hairy Vetch is a cool-season perennial legume that can be used as green manure in raised beds. It germinates quickly and produces high yields of nitrogen-rich biomass. In addition, Hairy Vetch benefits the soil by improving soil fertility, suppressing weeds, and creating a seed bank for next year’s crops.

Hairy Vetch should be seeded in moist soils in late summer or early fall. Sow seeds 1/4-inch-deep and cover with soil. Water well immediately after planting and again 2–3 weeks later. Once the plants grow tall enough to reach the surface of the soil, they are ready to mow or harrow.


Many cover crops can protect and enrich the soil around raised beds. Rye can grow quickly and provide significant coverage to the soil around the bed. Additionally, Rye leaves decompose quickly, which helps to break down organic matter and improve the soil’s fertility. Sorghum is a cereal grain that can be used as a cover crop for raised beds. This plant can grow quickly, suppressing weeds while providing a protective surface over the soil. Sorghum can also provide nitrogen to the soil through its decomposing biomass.


Buckwheat forms a dense mat that can suppress weeds and help to maintain soil moisture. Buckwheat is also high in protein and fiber, making it an ideal choice for organic farmers.
Start planting the seeds in early spring or late summer to grow Buckwheat. Buckwheat is a cool-season crop that needs about 60 days of warm weather to germinate before flowering. Once established, Buckwheat will do well in most soils, although it prefers moist conditions. It produces an abundant harvest of small white flowers pollinated by bees.

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The Mustard plant produces seeds that can be dried and used as a spice. Mustard is also known for its strong taste and yellow flowers. Mustard can be grown on various soils but prefers well-drained soils with high fertility. It should be planted in early spring before the soil becomes too dry or cold to work. After planting, water the plant regularly until it begins to grow upright. Once the plant has reached full height, stop watering it entirely and allow it to go dormant for three weeks.

During this time, the roots will die down so that new plants will form next year. When replanting in the fall, choose a younger seedling instead of an older one because old plants produce thicker pods which may not cook well when used as spices. Mustard can be harvested throughout the growing season by cutting the top off the pod with a knife or shears and then pulling out the seeds.

Scarlet Runner Beans

Scarlet Runner Beans are well suited for raised bed cultivation because they grow quickly and provide plants with nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients. Scarlet Runner Beans can be planted in early spring or late fall and should be rotated with other cover crops to prevent them from becoming dominant.


Barley is a cool-season cereal crop that is versatile and easy to grow. It is tolerant to various soils and climatic conditions, making it a good choice for raised beds. Plant early in the season to get the best germination rate. In late summer or fall, begin tilling the soil to break up clods and tilth. This will improve drainage and help prevent damping-off diseases.

You can grow them collectively using strip cropping or intercropping techniques. Either way, make sure the plants are well watered during dry periods. Barley is a great cover crop for raised beds because it can provide soil protection and organic matter. It’s also a fast grower, so you can keep your bed covered quickly.

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Many different cover crops can help protect soil and prevent erosion. Wheat is one of the most common cover crops and is a good choice for raised beds because it is fast-growing, tolerant of a wide range of soils and conditions, and produces high yields. Wheat can be planted as early as late winter or early spring in regions where freezing temperatures are not a problem. It should be planted 2-3 inches deep and covered with 2-4 inches of soil. After flowering, the Wheat should be cut down to about 1 foot tall to prevent it from competing with other plants for nutrients.


Alfalfa is a versatile cover crop in many different soil types and climates. It tolerates dry and wet conditions, making it a good choice for raised beds. Alfalfa can be planted in early spring or fall and grow until the first frost. It produces an abundance of hay, which can be used as feed for livestock or sold as fertilizer. Selecting the suitable variety for your climate and soil type is essential to reap the benefits of Alfalfa as a cover crop. Ensure to till the soil well before planting to break up any stubborn roots and increase airflow through the plant canopy.   


Several cover crops can be grown in raised beds, and each has benefits. Clover is an excellent plant to use as a cover crop because it is functional both as a food source for wildlife and as a nitrogen fixer. Additionally, Clover can help reduce soil erosion and improve the soil’s overall health. Choose a suitable variety for your climate and location. Each has different flowering times and needs, so choose the right one for your area. Prepare the ground before planting by turning it over with a tiller or spading.

This will break up any compacted layers and allow the Clover to grow deep into the soil. Plant seeds 1-2 inches deep and cover them with soil using a fork or shovel—water well after planting to moisten the ground and promote healthy growth. Watch for signs of emerging plants after four weeks; they should have blooms appearing on top of their leaves. Once they’ve spent enough time growing foliage, you can begin thinning out individual plants to create a denser cover crop.

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Rye is a fast-growing, small grain crop that can be sown in late March or early April. Rye grows well in most climates and is tolerant of dry and wet conditions. Rye grows well in most climates and is tolerant of dry and wet conditions. Many cover crops can be grown in raised beds, but Rye is one of the most common. Rye is a hardy crop that can survive in areas with low fertility, and it’s a nitrogen-fixing grass, which means it can help increase soil nitrogen levels. Rye also resists diseases and pests, making it a practical choice for raised bed gardens.


Cowpeas are an excellent cover crop for raised beds. They are a legume, which means they fix nitrogen in the soil. This makes them an essential part of a healthy soil balance. Cowpeas also have a high biomass content, making them an efficient energy source for your raised bed. They can grow tall and can produce anywhere from 1 to 4 pounds of dry matter per acre, depending on the variety you choose.

To start with Cowpeas as a cover crop, seeds should be started six to eight weeks indoors before the anticipated planting time outside. Once seeds germinate, they should be transplanted into the ground and watered regularly. Remember that Cowpeas need plenty of sunlight and will not do well in shady areas.


Several cover crops can be grown in raised beds to improve soil health and help suppress weeds. Pea is one of the most popular cover crops because it is fast-growing and relatively pest free. Peas can be planted in late winter or early spring and reach maturity in early summer. When grown as a cover crop, peas provide benefits such as increased soil fertility, suppression of weeds, and improved water retention.

When planting Peas as a cover crop, make sure to select a variety that is suited for your location and situation. Some varieties are better suited for cool climates, while others are better for warm climates. Also, consider the height of the peas; shorter plants will produce more leaves but may not be as effective at suppressing weeds. Once you have selected your peas, prepare the ground by prepping with an organic amendment such as compost or manure, then tilling loose soils until they are level. 

Plant the Peas about 1 inch deep and space them about 12 inches apart. Water them well before planting and then again weekly during peak growth. Remember that Peas require some attention once established; they will need watering during dry weather but can also suffer from drought if not correctly cared for. When harvesting the peas, carefully remove the entire plant rather than just picking individual flowers or pods since this will allow new plants to develop and produce more vegetables next season.

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Cover crops can provide many benefits for raised bed gardens, including improving soil health and decreasing erosion. They can help to suppress weeds, create a stable environment for plants, and add organic material to the soil. Cover crops can be used in any garden, including vegetable gardens, fruit or nut trees, and flower gardens. They are especially beneficial in areas with high sunlight or wind exposure levels.

To best use cover crops in a raised bed garden, selecting the suitable variety and planting schedule is essential. Some varieties are best planted as spring cover crops, while others are better suited for fall or winter. It is also vital to water cover crops regularly during their growth period to ensure they stay healthy and active. When considering which cover crop to include in your garden, consider the climate and soils where you live. Look for a cover crop adapted to your region to help improve soil health.


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