Green Manure

A pal asked me if green manure came from horses after they had munched down on a feast of all things green.
Nope, no horses’ smelly stuff required for this.
Green manure is the lazy (wo)man’s  way of ensuring you have top quality soil for the next growing season.
The next growing season?  Already?
Whilst it’s true that the main veg growing season for 2012 is coming to a close, as the days grow shorter and the nights longer, it doesn’t mean that we can rest on our shovels. Do we ever!

Now is the best time to get green winter manure sown

I am sowing as we speak and will leave all the lush green material in situ for as long as possible to gain maximum benefits to my soil.
Why bother to grow green manure – why not just cover the ground over with weed-suppressant membrane and be done with it?
One year I tried the weed-suppressant membrane approach of keeping the soil covered over winter, it does the job, there’s no doubting that, but there is something soulless about seeing all the black material covering the ground. What it doesn’t do is put anything back into the soil.
If you are a ‘tidy’ gardener you may struggle with the weed-like look of the green manure – if this is you, think of it as a challenge, a break out of your comfort zone.
Why do we sow green manures?  It’s a lot less messy than spreading horse poo over your plot that’s for sure and, of course; it will provide a different environment to poo.
All this talk of poo as given me child-hood memories and images of my Dad jumping out of the car whilst we were driving out for a picnic somewhere, he would fling open the boot and out would come a sack and a shovel – in went the horse poo!
This would happen on every trip – we always kept our fingers crossed that Dad would spot the ‘gold stuff’ when we were  just a couple of yards from home, of which he never did, it was always on the out-bound journey!  Is it any wonder I prefer green manure!

So – what to sow?

Phacelia – Surely a flower worthy of any vase!
Out of this little list I really like the Crimson Clover and the Phacelia, both produce pretty flowers, which will keep the bees happy through the autumn sunshine that we will surely have.
I will continue to sow these through September and into November, filling in any bare patches that show up.
Crimson Clover – growing period (gp) is 3-18 months
Whilst this is not always winter-hardy it will do a wonderful job before it gets culled by heavy frosts. Enjoy the flowers but do ensure to cut down before they set seed, leaving it all on the soil surface until you are ready to start again.
Field Beans – gp overwintering
These are usually tough enough to get through most winters and can be left in the ground until spring when you would cut it down and dig into the soil before flowers set seeds. Having dug the green lushness in wait for 3 to 4 weeks before sowing/planting.  Cabbages will perform well in the recently-vacated field beans bed
Phacelia – gp 1-3 months, may overwinter in mild areas
This is probably my favourite, these scented lilac flowers are worthy of any flower bed.  The bees also have this top of their list.
Forage Rye – gp 3-6 months … boring green (but useful) stuff
Mustard – gp 1-2 months … mmm, hot dogs!
Sweet Clover – gp up to two years (excellent value!)
This is another green manure that both the bees and I enjoy, producing sweet smelling yellow flowers. As with all other flowering green manures ensure you cut the flowers down before they set seed – leaving all in situ until you are ready to dig the composting material into the veg bed.
Winter Tares – gp overwintering … another rather dull green thing – sorry WT, but you are!
During the dead winter months, green manures will improve soil fertility, protect the soil structure from heavy rains. It will provide a safe winter home for beetles and other predators that help to control pests.
Deep rooting green manures will aerate the soil, which the worms and your soil will thank you for.

So who said it was all over!

It’s never over in the world of gardening, unless you have a concrete standing and empty pots…imagine that!
Piskie, a.k.a. Virtual Assistant / Business Supporter Suzie Warren, can be found here
photo credit: TexasEagle via photo pin cc
photo credit: David~O via photo pin cc
photo credit: Anita363 via photo pin cc

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