by Jennifer Poindexter
Oats aren’t what many would consider a common crop. However, many gardeners are embracing them because oats make a wonderful cover crop. If you’re going to use them in your garden, it’s vital that you understand how to grow and plant oats. You’ll also need to understand how to care for them properly and what could harm your crop.
You’re in the right place to gain all of this information and then some. I’ll also share with you the benefits that oats can bring to your garden. Here’s all the information you need to grow oats as a cover crop in your garden.
Growing Conditions for Oats
Oats have basic needs which should be met to give this crop the greatest chance at thriving in your garden.
Plant your oats in an area which receives full sun. They should also be planted in a grow space with well-draining soil that is high in nutrients.
Keep in mind that oats prefer cooler temperatures. They do best when growing in conditions around 70-degrees Fahrenheit.
This will change when you plant, based upon your planting zone. If you can provide these few basic growing conditions, oats should have what they need to produce strong plants.
How to Plant Oats
Planting oats is a simple process. There are two methods you can choose from. The first planting method is casting.
Till up the soil in the planting area. Cast the seeds over the area and lightly cover them with soil. Be sure to sow your oats heavily.
We’ll discuss this a little later, but oats do a better job when they are planted densely in a specific area. The other method to planting oats is by placing the seed in rows.
Begin by creating shallow rows in your garden space. Again, make the rows snug to ensure the oats will cover your entire garden area.
Once the rows are in place, plant the oats approximately one inch in the soil. If you plant the oats too deep, their roots might rot.
After planting, keep the soil consistently moist during the germination process. They should germinate in approximately one week.
You now understand how to plant oats, but we still must discuss when you should plant them. As mentioned earlier, oats are a cool weather crop.
They can germinate in temperatures as low as 40-degrees Fahrenheit and live in temperatures down to 5-degrees Fahrenheit.
Therefore, in most planting zones, you should plant oats during late summer. Try to plant them around two months prior to the first hard frost.
By planting oats at the appropriate time and at the appropriate depth, you should have a better chance at reaping the benefits of this crop.
How to Care for Oats
Oats are a relatively low-maintenance crop. If you understand how to water the crop adequately and understand how to terminate it, you should have few issues.
When watering oats, you should deep water them after the plants are established. If you deep water, the idea is to water your crops for longer periods of time but for fewer days of the week.
This fully saturates the roots, and surrounding area, during the initial watering session. As the crops dry, during the days when they don’t receive water, they’ll dig deeper into the ground in search of hydration.
During this process, the crops develop stronger root systems which results in healthier plants.
After you learn how to water oats, you must also know when and how to terminate this crop. When utilizing cover crops, it’s vital that you terminate them at the right time.
If you kill them too early, you’ll miss out on specific benefits. If you kill the crop too late, they will reseed and grow in the places you don’t want them to and at the wrong times.
In warmer climates, oats can be grown in the fall and winter months. The temperatures remain warm enough that they don’t hinder the growth of this crop.
If this is the case for your planting zone, let them grow until the heads begin to form. Do not let the heads form completely to avoid reseeding.
Even during the winter, in colder climates, the oats might die off naturally due to the lower temperatures.
However, you can allow the crop to remain even if the temperatures kill it. The plants will still do their job of protecting your soil even if they’re dead.
When it’s time to terminate the crop, mow it down. From there, use your tiller to till it into the soil. Your garden will receive ample benefits from a limited amount of work on your part.
This is all it takes to care for oats properly. Follow these few basic rules, and you should have a positive experience raising this cover crop.
Pests and Diseases Which Could Harm Oats
Oats do face a few threats when growing in the garden. Most diseases which impact this crop are fungal diseases.
This shouldn’t be a huge surprise because oats work best when planted densely. However, these dense conditions can also deter airflow surrounding the plant.
If you notice signs of fungal disease, treat the crop with a fungicide. You should also be sure that water is draining around the crop.
You might also try reducing the amount of water being provided to the oats. By controlling the moisture and ensuring air is circulating properly around your crop, you should be able to stay ahead of any fungal issues.
There are also a few pests which might impact your oats crop. The most common pests for oats are army worms, wireworms, and aphids.
In all of these cases, treating your crop with an insecticide should be able to resolve any issues that might be taking place in your garden.
Stay alert to these pests and diseases, and you should be able to protect your crop from the things which most commonly threaten it.
Benefits of Growing Oats
The final topic we must discuss is why you should even consider raising oats as a cover crop. If you’re unfamiliar with cover crops, they’re a natural way to protect your soil from erosion.
Plus, cover crops also add nutrients to your soil and add a multitude of other benefits. In the case of oats, they help protect your soil from erosion.
Where the crop grows so densely it’s also a wonderful weed barrier. The germination rate for oats is high.
Therefore, oats can smother weeds. They also grow well with legumes, clover, and smaller grains. This will provide even more benefits to your garden.
Oats absorb nitrogen that’s deep beneath the soil. When the crop is terminated and begins decomposing, it releases the nutrients to the crops that are planted after it.
The only word of caution, when growing oats as a cover crop, is to ensure you wait at least a month before planting anything new. They need time to decompose to ensure the new plants aren’t hindered.
By giving the oats time to break down before planting in them, you give them time to reach the state of becoming a type of mulch for your garden area.
This concludes our discussion on how to grow oats as a cover crop. You should have all the information you need to start this gardening expedition.
Hopefully, all these pointers will help you grow a healthy crop of oats which also benefits your growing space. Give cover crops a try and see what you think of their advantages.