Hairy Vetch

It is said that few legumes match Vicia villosa or “hairy vetch” for spring residue production or nitrogen contribution. Widely adapted and winter hardy through Hardiness Zone 4 and into Zone 3 (with snow cover), hairy vetch is a top nitrogen provider.

The cover grows slowly in fall, but root development continues over winter. Growth quickens in spring, when hairy vetch becomes a sprawling vine up to 12 feet long. Height rarely exceeds 3 feet. Its abundant, viney vegetation can be a benefit and a challenge. The stand smothers spring weeds, however, and can help you replace all or most nitrogen fertilizer needs for late-planted crops.

Hairy vetch ahead of no-till corn was also the preferred option for risk averse farmers in a three-year Maryland study that also included fallow and winter wheat ahead of the corn. The vetch-corn system maintained its economic advantage when the cost of vetch was projected at maximum historic levels, fertilizer N price was decreased, and the herbicide cost to control future volunteer vetch was factored in. [1]


Soil: Any, widely adaptable
Climate: Any, but not winter hardy north of New Jersey


Per acre: 30 pounds
Per 1000 square feet: 1 pound
Seed Depth: 1/2 inch


Sow: Fall or Spring
Turn under: Spring or Fall

Vicia villosa - Hairy Vetch

See Also…

“The earth neither grows old or wears out if it is dunged.”
~ Columella, circa 45 A.D.


  1. Hanson, J. C. et al. 1993. Profitability of no-tillage corn following a hairy vetch cover crop. J. Prod. Ag. 6:432-436.
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"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease" ~ Thomas Jefferson

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