Oats are not particularly winter hardy. If you need a low-cost and reliable fall cover that winterkills in Hardiness Zone 6 and colder and much of Zone 7, oats is the cover crop for you. Spring-planted oats are used for green manure, while fall-planted oats provide winter-killed ground cover. The residue is incorporated before the early planting of vegetables. Oats are particularly useful in rotations with vegetable crops because they grow quickly and are easily killed. They are an excellent choice to mix with legumes, like hairy vetch and peas, for forage, erosion control and weed suppression.

Oats are a wonderful nutrient catch cover crop. It takes up excess Nitrogen (N) and small amounts of Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) when planted early enough. Late-summer plantings can absorb as much as 77 lb. N/A in an eight- to ten-week period, studies in the Northeast and Midwest have shown. [1,2]


Soil: Any, well-drained
Climate: Any, use in winter only in mild climates


Per acre: 100 pounds
Per 1000 square feet: 2½ pounds
Seed Depth: 1 inch


Sow: Spring or Fall
Turn under: Summer or Spring

The root systems of oats are not effective at breaking up compacted soils.
oats as a cover crop

See Also…

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


  1. arkin, T. B., T. C. Kaspar and C. A. Cambardella. 1997. Small grain cover crops to manage nitrogen in the Midwest. Proc. Cover Crops, Soil Quality, and Ecosystems Conference. March 12-14, 1997. Sacramento, Calif. Soil and Water Conservation Society, Ankeny, Iowa.
  2. Porter, S. 1994. Increasing options for cover cropping in the Northeast. SARE Project Report #FNE93-014. Northeast Region SARE. Burlington, VT. http://www.sare.org/MySare/ProjectReport.aspx?do=viewProj&pn=FNE93-014
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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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