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Commercial Fruit and Vegetable Growers

Southwestern Illinois (Waterloo) Update: Cover crops enjoying mild temperatures

tender young green cereal rye cover crop seedlings in field

We have gotten a break from the most intense cold with a fairly mild February overall.  Precipitation has been fairly light so far with only 0.54” of rain in this month bringing our yearly total to 5.82”.  Half of our February precipitation came 2/16 in the form of a light layer of ice followed by 2” of snow.  With that snow came a few “cold days” and some lows in the teens, but other than that we have generally been in the 40s and 50s for highs and mostly above freezing.  The outlook from here is generally mild for the next few weeks.

Still not a lot going on out in the field, but pruning and clean-up of fruit crops continues.  High tunnel crops are starting to push more growth and have appreciated more mild temperatures and some sunshine.  I just seeded some transplants for some spring cole crops and soon it will be time to be thinking about seeding warm-season transplants.  The general rule of thumb taught to me was to allow about 6 weeks for tomato transplants and 8 weeks for peppers.  This can vary based on how large of a transplant you want but has always been a good baseline.

Cover crops are also starting to perk up.  I have some cereal rye at home in my garden that is starting to green up.  Fun fact I learned at the recent Midwest Cover Crop Council Conference is cereal rye at maturity has about the amount of above-ground biomass as it does root biomass.  With most of our cover crops what you see above the ground literally is only half of the story.