Answer: Cover crops can reduce soil erosion and add nutrient-rich organic matter to the soil when they're tilled in. The roots of cover crops can also improve soil texture as they penetrate and break up hard soils. Cover crops like winter rye are generally left alone once the seeds are sown. The plants are tilled under in the early spring, before they've had a chance to flower and set seeds. It isn't necessary, or even desireable, to mow them down during the course of the winter. But, if the plot is terribly unsightly and you feel you have to mow it, leave the clippings. As they decompose they'll release nitrogen into the soil. Rotill or dig the clippings, plus the remaining plants into the soil in the spring to receive the full benefits of your cover crop.
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