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What are Green Manures?

Green manures are specific plants grown to increase organic material in a garden bed and improve its structure. They are used as a dense covering over bare soil to mitigate weed growth, moisture loss and erosion. Also referred to as cover crops they are the soil structure saviors!

5 tips for utilizing green manures

There have been many times where the crop run sheet hasn't aligned with what is happening in the Nature Cycle Market Garden and a bed has ended up empty for 4 weeks. This is more than enough time to run a round of green manures through the bed and till it in at the next bed preparation. Not only is it keeping the soil alive, it is giving the soil a natural dose of nutrients through organic matter.

  1. Mix a nitrogen fixing species with a vegetative species
  2. Apply a dense seeding to the bed
  3. Pay attention to the crops during germination and seedling growth
  4. Slash the crop as soon as it flowers
  5. Till the crop into the soil and allow the soil organisms to break it down

The benefits of using green manures are numerous, from controlling soil born pests and fungi to soil stabilization, and we widely encourage their use in every crop rotation.

Green manure varieties

In the Nature Cycle Market Garden we have trialed Buckwheat, Clover, lucerne, Kale, Mustard, Oats, Vetch, Japanese millet and Cowpea. The buckwheat, clover and millet have become our preference of green manure crops to use in a short turn over between production crops, they have a quick germination rate, cover the bed while not growing wild and offer a reasonable amount of organic matter. The lucerne, kale, cowpea and vetch are preferable for longer term remediation areas. They take longer to flower, produce an extensive amount of organic matter and thoroughly cover the beds to ensure weed suppression. There is a wide range of varieties to choose from when selecting green manures, this is to ensure a wide range of environments can be improved through their use.

3 tips for selecting green manure varieties

  1. Consider the soil conditions they will be growing in
  2. Consider the length of time they will be in the ground
  3. Consider the onsite climate and which varieties will grow to those conditions

To learn more about Market Gardening and how to set-up your own Market Garden be sure to check out;

  1. Building Biodiversity in the Market Garden
  2. Understanding Soils in the Market Garden
  3. Building Bio-intensive Market Gardens
  4. Composting in the Market Garden
  5. DIY Bokashi Bucket