Saturday 16 August 2014


Green manures fast growing crops that can be grown in your beds to cover bare soil.  They help to smother weeds and prevent soil erosion.  They are dug back into the soil whilst still green and this provides the soil with additional nutrients in a similar way to adding a manure.  

The use of green manures can reduce your use of chemical fertilisers and help you to garden organically.  Herbaceous borders, summer bedding, vegetable plots or sub tropical borders could benefit from the use of a green manure.  They are particularly effective in a beds where tender plants are removed in the autumn and planting commences again in the spring.  

Green manures are also useful when beds that remain unplanted for some time as the presence of the crop not only add nutrients to the soil but also keeps the beds weed free. The plants are sown when the beds are emptied in the autumn and the entire plant (including the roots) is dug in at the end of the winter prior to planting in the spring.

Sow your green manure directly into the soil late summer/autumn after you have stripped out your summer planting.  Prepare the soil by forking over the soil deeply and removing any plant material from the previous planting prior to sowing seed. Keep the bed clear of weeds until the seeds establish and water if necessary.

A month before you plant out your beds new plants chop the green manure up.  Leave the plants to wilt before digging over the bed and incorporate the entire plant  into the top 10 inches of soil.  Allow at least two weeks before planting to allow the green manure to break down as decomposing green material will slow down your new plants.

Green manure crops include legumes, plants belonging to the pea and bean family.  They are very particularly effective green manure as they have an additional benefit of fixing nitrogen. They have nodules on their roots caused by a bacteria in the soil that helps them to fix nitrogen from the air into the soil, and therefore increase nitrogen levels in the soil.  This nitrogen fixing benefits successive plantings considerably as nitrogen is an essential nutrient for leaf growth.

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) and fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) form dense foliage that will effectively suppress weeds.  Other green manures include clover (Trifolium hybridum, Trifolium incarnatum), mustard (Sinapis alba) and bitter blue lupin (Lupinus angustifolius).

For related articles click onto:
Can you keep bees in your garden?
Feeding plants
Green manure: Broad beans
How do I attract bees into my garden?
How to grow runner beans from seed
How to grow runner beans from seed
How to make compost
How to propagate using division
How to propagate from seed
Lawn care
Plants for free
Preparing a seed bed
Soil structure
What is a potager?
What is the difference between a vegetable and a fruit?
What is green manure?
Thinning and transplanting
Vegetable crop rotation

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