GARDENING WITH DEBBI
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.