I like to get a cover crop of winter rye sown before October so it is established for early spring growth. Rye is an amazing crop that stays green all winter and will grow six to eight feet tall by early June. At that point, I can crimp it (basically run it over with a giant wheel behind the tractor) to terminate the crop, leaving a thick mulch to fertilize crops for our fall Fort Wayne farm share.
A year of rye:
This system has many benefits that facilitates healthier soil and better crops:
This last photo is of our main fall crop, which I planted into crimped rye. I’ve experimented with planting broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, and winter squash (not pictured) in this way for our Fort Wayne farm stand. You can see the above crops have thrived in the rye, benefiting from the covered soil and weed-free beds. The patches of green that are actually rye that has self-seeded, an indication that I was a little late on crimping, but the new rye hasn’t out-competed the crop. Our Fort Wayne farm will continue to benefit from this system for years to come.