Cover crop and nurse crop are often used interchangeably but they are different and each has a distinct purpose. Technically, a cover crop is planted on a field prior to planting with a cash crop or other desired vegetation. It can do several things for a site: add nutrients, prevent wind/water erosion, and sometimes be harvested for supplemental income. Once the cover crop has served it’s purpose though,it is usually killed through tillage or spraying, and the desired vegetation is planted. Nurse crop, on the other hand, is grown along with the desired vegetation, and is included with most of our native seed mixes. Nurse crops are intended to help nurse along the native vegetation while it is slowly establishing on the site. A major benefit of nurse crop is that it comes up quickly, preventing soil erosion and adding manageable competition to invasive species that might otherwise take over a site quickly from windblown seed. The same set of species may be used for either purpose. Common cover and nurse crops are oats, annual rye grass, cereal rye (not recommended for native plantings) and winter wheat. Another benefit of using nurse crop in a native seed mix is simply to add bulk, making application easier in most cases since many people choose to install their seed mixes using a broadcast method. For the cost and benefit, we recommend using nurse crop.