Measure the Effectiveness of Interseeded Cover Crops for Proactive Weed prevention in a Chemical-free, Low-till Vegetable Market Garden Operation

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2017: $7,500.00
Projected End Date: 01/30/2019
Grant Recipient: Hallelujah Acres Farm
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
James Catron
Hallelujah Acres Farm LLC

Information Products


  • Agronomic: buckwheat, clovers
  • Vegetables: broccoli, cucurbits, peppers, tomatoes


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, intercropping
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Proposal summary:


    I need to find and implement an effective, economical solution for weed prevention in my small, chemical-free vegetable market garden operation.

    As a small farmer, it is critical I implement the most effective sustainable agricultural practices. I operate my business alone, hiring resources only at critical harvest points and for marketing. Weed prevention and management is my highest concern due to the adverse impact weeds have on plant production, the resource hours required to prevent or remove weeds, and the resulting effect on quality of life of the farmer.

    I must solve this problem to sustain my business. This problem is a dilemma for farmers I’ve talked to in my community, and I can assume that is true for many in the North Central region. The desire to avoid chemical herbicides and put soil health at the forefront has resulted in a reluctance to follow traditional practices. I’ve toured vegetable gardens wrought with weeds affecting yields.


    Proposal: To compare the effectiveness of three to four varieties of interseeded cover crops in weed prevention with two commonly used methods for similar market garden operations. I will compare the cover crops to biodegradable mulch and manual hoeing.

    Each chosen variety of vegetable will be planted in three test strips utilizing a different method of weed control. I will work with Purdue Extension to determine the specific cover crop varieties to be tested. As an example, the winter squash and sweet corn may be interseeded with crimson clover and annual rye. A minimum of three different vegetable crops will be tested. White clover will be seeded into the aisles. I will select the species of cover crop based on known characteristics and impact on plants.

    Measurements including man-hours to seed and manage weeds, weed plug counts for square foot, harvest, and soil health will be recorded and compared. The solution will be identified within 12 months. I will partner with Purdue Extension Ag Educator, the Boone County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), and the local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) representatives to complete soil testing and review my measurements and methods.


    Sustainable Agricultural Practices I will test to solve the problem:

    •Cover Crops

    •Proactive Weed Control through interseeded cover crops


    Short term goals:

    1.Compare and contrast man-hours to implement each solution.

    2.Compare and contrast weed starts per square foot at multiple time intervals.

    3.Compare and contrast man-hours to remove weeds at multiple time intervals.


    Long term goals:

    1.Track and compare overall costs for each solution.

    2.Test and compare impacts to soil of each solution (macro-nutrients, micro-nutrients, soil structure) at specific intervals.

    3.Compare crop yields and quality.

    4.Arrive on a working solution for weed prevention in my market garden.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1.  Provide meaningful on-farm research for the sustainable agriculture methods of interseeded cover crops in a vegetable garden.

    2.  Save man-hours, one of the most substantial costs and a real problem for market gardeners.

    3.  Improve ecological health by proving and communicating alternatives to herbicides and deep tillage.

    4.  Benefit community by providing a weed prevention solution that scales easily to the home garden.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.