Gardening Tips and Highlights

Grow a green manure

Think of green manure as cow manure that never went through the cow. Green manure enriches the soil with organic matter and nutrients, and while growing, they suppress weeds and prevent erosion.

A green manure is a plant that you grow quickly and then kill by mowing it down, pulling it up, digging it into the soil, or simply letting it die when cold weather comes. The main difference between a green manure and a cover crop is the age of the plants.

Cover crops are usually allowed to grow to maturity, but green manures are harvested or turned under when they are young. Whether you use them as green manures or cover crops, they are a special group of plants that are widely used to improve soil. These plants germinate quickly, grow fast, and do a great job of enriching the soil with nitrogen, organic matter, or both. Farmers combine them with vegetable plantings, and you can grow green manure crops in the pathways between rows, or grow between plantings.

If after you don’t plan to use the space vacated by peas and lettuce until late summer, you can grow a quick crop of buckwheat. Another option, is to sow a hardy legume like field peas or hairy vetch as you clean up your garden in fall. If you mow, hoe down, or pull up green manure plants, the foliage can be immediately used as mulch, or can be added to the compost.

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