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I have 4 new raised beds I built this year. They were filled quite deep with what was supposed to be pretty good soil (turns out I was duped, just like you read often online!) - it's largely all topsoil and uncomposted manure. Regardless of this season - which I'm getting mild growth out of due to a lot of added compost, I am already making soil repair plans w/ cover crops.

I am looking for a crop or mix that will:

  • Adds Nitrogen to the soil and a lot of organic material
  • Is an annual, not a perennial - I want no risk here =)
  • Can be seeded in the beds sometime between September and November in Zone 6 (Ohio)
  • Is easy to till back into the bed in spring

I am thinking about Winter Rye - although I understand it does not provide nitrogen into the soil but likely meets my other needs. Also considering Alfalfa (although I can't find organic seeds yet), or Hairy Vetch. Some farms have cover crop mixes too, not sure if that's a good idea for raised beds where I can't really use machines to till back in?

There is a lot of scattered info online and most are geared towards serious farmers, so hopefully some folks here can lead me in the right direction! Thanks!

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    Note that alfalfa is a perennial. – DCookie Jun 15 at 13:38
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It would seem that if there's uncomposted manure in the soil you've probably got enough nitrogen, it just needs to break down. Have a look at this question. If it were me, I'd go with Winter Rye if I were determined to use a cover crop. It will hold the nitrogen that is there. Adding compost instead might be more efficient. Manually turning a cover crop seems like a lot of work.

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