Annual Ryegrass, also known as Italian Ryegrass, is widely used as a winter cover crop. It is a turf grass that has an extensive root system that is productive even when grown in compacted soils. When sown in the fall, it establishes itself quickly and continues to grow, condition permitting, throughout the fall and winter. Like other cover crops, it helps to suppress weeds and protect soil from erosion. It tolerates wet soils and temporary flooding conditions. On poor, sandy and rocky soils, it typically does better than other cereal grains.
It is an erect, sturdy, cool-season, non-spreading, bunch-type grass that can reach a height of three to four feet. With minimal seedbed preparation and using simple broadcast spreading, the small size of the seeds allow them to make good contact and tend to germinate and establish quickly.
Since Annual Ryegrass is a heavy feeder, it is able to bind up nitrogen during the winter which helps prevent losses caused by rains leaching nitrates below the root zone. Sowing clover, peas, and other legumes along with Annual Ryegrass is a standard practice that we use here on the farm. And although we use it as a cover crop and turn it under in the spring, it can be allowed to become established as forage or hay.
One ounce will cover about 130 to 200 square feet of garden space. As part of a mix, coverage increases accordingly.