While hairy vetch is a top producer of nitrogen and ground cover, fall planted vetch is slow to establish and will not produce much top cover unless planted early, for example, after wheat or oats. For this reason, vetch is usually mixed with faster-establishing cover crops such as radish and ryegrass. Rapid spring growth produces a heavy mulch layer and is one of the best for suppressing weeds and preventing erosion. If allowed to reach 50% bloom, vetch can produce up to 250 lbs of N, about half of which is available to the following crop. About 10% of vetch seed is "hard seeded" and will not germinate the first year, posing potential weed problems.
Best ahead of corn. Inoculate with a vetch inoculant for best N production. Once vetch reaches 50% bloom, it can be killed by mowing or rolling with a stalk chopper. Spraying and incorporation also work well. Vetch will provide a heavy ground cover but, as a succulent, it decomposes rapidly and will lose its effectiveness as cover in 4 to 6 weeks. Winter kill is possible if temperatures are below 5°F with no snow cover.
Drill 15-20 lbs/A or broadcast at 25-30 lbs/A and cover with a harrow. In mixes 10-15 lbs/A. Seed 30-45 days before a killing frost as vetch is slow to establish. Plant 1⁄2 to 1 inch deep. Roots continue to grow through the winter. Vetch has a high P and K requirement but needs very little N for establishment. Vetch doesn't do well as a spring planted crop.
- Great N producer at 50% bloom
- Can lower N expenses by a third to half
- Works well ahead of corn or sorghums and sudangrass
- Rapid spring growth gives heavy mulch cover
- Excellent spring weed suppression and erosion control
- Can no-till into mulch layer
- Holds moisture for following crop
- Works well as a green manure
Zones: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6