GAR­DEN­ING WITH DEBBI

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - WITH DEBBI GIB­SON, HORTICULTURALIST

GREEN ma­nure is a term of­ten used in gar­den­ing, but what is it and how is it used?

Ba­si­cally, green ma­nure is plants grown specif­i­cally to be dug back into the soil to im­prove it.

This gar­den­ing method was used by farm­ers in In­dia for thou­sands of years, the an­cient Greeks ploughed broad bean plants back into the soil and Chi­nese farm­ers, hun­dreds of years ago, planted spe­cific grasses and weeds, to add nu­tri­ents and body back into the soil af­ter har­vest.

Green ma­nure crops are a mix­ture of grasses like bar­ley, wheat, oats and mil­let, which when dug in im­prove the soil struc­ture and add or­ganic bulk to the soil.

This im­proves wa­ter pen­e­tra­tion and hold­ing ca­pac­ity and soil aer­a­tion.

They also in­clude legume plants like peas, beans, clover and lupins, which take up ni­tro­gen from the air and soil where it is stored in the plant’s cells and roots to be later re­leased when dug back into the soil.

So when is a green ma­nure crop planted?

Grow­ing crops can take a lot of the good­ness out of the soil leav­ing it hun­gry and nu­tri­ent de­fi­cient.

If the soil looks tired and lacks body, espe­cially af­ter a good sea­son, it will ap­pre­ci­ate a green ma­nure crop.

It is also good prac­tice to fal­low or rest parts of the ed­i­ble gar­den area and au­tumn/win­ter is when cool sea­son green ma­nure seeds can be planted.

It is bet­ter than leav­ing the soil bare where it is sub­ject to ero­sion and weed in­va­sion.

To plant, re­move any weeds and gen­tly till the sur­face. Sprin­kle the seeds evenly across the sur­face then lightly rake in and wa­ter well.

Al­low around eight weeks for the green ma­nure to grow, then just be­fore it flow­ers, use a gar­den fork to turn it back into the soil.

Wait an­other six weeks while it de­com­poses be­fore plant­ing the next crop.

The good news is that Mr Fothergills have green ma­nure mix seed pack­ets avail­able for around $5 a packet, which cov­ers 10 square me­tres.

Happy gar­den­ing.

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