Green Manure: 11-27-12

It’s getting pretty chilly out and some of our fall plants are starting to fade.  Sob!  But it’s still a good time of year to grow.  Actually the only time my garden really ever suffers is in the dog days of summer.  And even though i don’t like being outside when it’s cold, it’s alright because the garden pretty much takes care of itself through these fall/winter months.  Most of what i’m growing through the winter has already been planted and established.

Though i still plant things throughout the season, even all year.  Always experimenting.  This week i’ve planted more onions, beats, beans, kale, peas, and broccoli.  i know i can always use a cloche made from a milk jug or whatever if there’s a frost forecasted.

But there are also still plants from the fall in the garden that won’t survive the cold.  That’s where the green manure comes in.  I’m not referring to diarrhea. Green manures are basically cover crops that are grown with the intention of turning them back into the soil. Obviously this would be more useful in the vegetable garden or in a newly created bed where tilling will not harm existing perennial plants.

Different green manures offer different advantages. Some, like alfalfa, are grown for their deep roots and are used to breakup and loosen compacted soil. The legumes, clover and vetch, have the ability to grab nitrogen from the air and eventually release it into the soil through their roots. If allowed to flower, clover especially is attractive to pollinators and beneficial insects. All green manures will suppress weeds and prevent erosion and nutrient runoff in areas that would otherwise be unplanted. And they all assist with creating good soil structure and food for the microbes, once they are tilled in and begin to decompose.

Popular choices for green manure include: annual ryegrass. barley, buckwheat, clover, winter wheat and winter rye.  This year, i’m doing buckwheat as my cover crop, in one small area of a garden in my backyard, where i don’t plan to plant any more veggies.

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