Cover Crops as Living Mulch under Organic Vegetables

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2015: $29,997.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2017
Grant Recipient: FairShare CSA Coalition
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Claire Strader
FairShare CSA Coalition

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: clovers
  • Vegetables: brussel sprouts, cucurbits


  • Crop Production: cover crops
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research, participatory research

    Proposal abstract:

    Incorporating long-standing leguminous cover crops into vegetable rotations is commonly known to improve soil quality and increase nitrogen availability to subsequent crops.  Small vegetable growers, however, struggle to include season-long covers on limited land.  Further, it can be difficult for growers to establish winter covers after harvest of late season crops like winter squash and Brussels sprouts.  Using cover crops as living mulches under vegetable crops could address both of these issues if growers can find a balance between vegetable and cover crop resource use.  In the first year, this research project will look at establishing two clovers under two vegetable crops while minimizing loss of vegetable yields.  In the second year, it will look at planting two vegetable crops into those established clover aisles, again with minimal vegetable yield loss.  If the cover crops can be established under vegetable crops in this way, small-scale growers can have more total land protected by winter covers and can increase soil quality through the use of legumes without having to take land out of vegetable production.  Organic vegetable farmers in south central Wisconsin will cooperate on this research which is targeted at the north central region of the United States.

    Project objectives from proposal:


      • Build on existing research to further develop a living mulch system that will maintain vegetable yields as compared to clean cultivated controls.


      • Gather information on how two vegetable crops perform in year 1 and year 2 of a living mulch system.


      • Share information with growers at two field days (2015 & 2016). Expected attendance at each field day is 35 to 40 growers.


      • Write up project findings and recommendations in an illustrated info sheet to be posted on the FairShare website and disseminated through the FairShare listserv and the Southern WI Vegetable Production Workshops.


    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.