Oats can be planted for forage, as a green crop or for harvest. The optimum time for planting summer oats will vary a bit by zone. Oats are not winter-hardy and should only be planted in fall for a winter-kill crop as green manure. Spring planting yields oats for harvest or forage. Oats are also useful for erosion control in hot, dry wind driven plains and for weed suppression. As a nurse crop they go well with legumes such as vetch. Oats can be harvested 50 to 60 days after sowing and the remaining stubble provides important and nutritious forage for animals.
Northern Oat Planting Times
Oats are not a common crop in the northern states, but a few areas sow small acreages. Alaska sows May 5 and doesn't harvest until Sept. 1. Most northern states sow in early to mid-March and are harvesting by mid-July until late August. Oregon sows in September and the crop overwinters to be harvested in July.
Central Oat Planting Times
Summer oat crops are sown in the springtime. Kansas sows in February for an early July to mid-August harvest. Nebraska sows in March, harvesting in early July, while Iowa is much the same. The north-central states are where the most oat-cropping takes place. South Dakota and North Dakota each produced the majority of the U.S. oat crop and sow in April for July and August harvest.
Southern Oat Planting Times
Planting times also depend upon the crop purpose. If it will be used for grain and forage it is planted earliest. In Alabama that means early September, but it is planted later in September or even October if it is just for harvest. Southern states primarily plant a variety of oats that can overwinter since the weather is not so severe. Summertime crops are reserved for those that need the high heat and are economically more valuable. Fall planting and winter harvest is reserved primarily for the Cotton Belt in the southern United States.