Sponsored by BCS America

Managing cover crops successfully can be as challenging as managing cash crops – particularly for market gardeners. Even though the cover crops will never go to market, their soil-building attributes provide essential contribution to the long-term viability of the farm enterprise.

For farmers or gardeners looking to raise appropriate cover crops, the two-wheel tractor and its attachments is a useful tool. 

Unlike its larger four-wheel counterparts, the narrower two-wheel tractor can work individual beds as soon as the previous crop has been harvested. Its size and maneuverability are particularly advantageous when managing cover crops within the confines of a hoop house/high tunnel.   

Man in field with flail mower
Shredding cover crops with a Flail Mower.

If the residue of the previous crop is significant in quantity, it can be quickly reduced to small bits by mowing with a flail mower attachment set at a ½” mowing height. In parallel fashion, when it’s time to terminate the cover crop, the flail evenly deposits all the mowed material on the ½” of remaining stubble; thereby terminating even the most vigorous of species, such as hairy vetch.     

To speed decomposition, the “green manure” can then be incorporated into the top few inches of the bed with the use of the tiller attachment equipped with its adjustable depth roller. In the case of JM Fortier’s raised bed system, he mows with the flail, then uses the rotary plow attachment to throw dirt from the walkways to cover the mowed material and reestablish the original height of his raised beds. A silage tarp is then used to cover the area. Whether using the tiller or rotary plow, tarping serves to both speed decomposition and terminate the viability of any remaining weed seeds. 

And for those of who broadcast their cover crop seeds, making a quick pass afterward with the tiller and precision depth roller (set at one inch) is a great way to achieve better seed-to-soil contact and minimize the likelihood of feeding the birds rather than raising a crop.

Interested in learning more about equipment like two-wheel tractors? Visit www.BCSAmerica.com.