The organic way of doing things can sometimes seem like a lot more work than its worth, but really when you start using things like green manure and reduce tillage methods you will find that organic garden isn’t more labour intensive but a return to a more natural and simplified way of doing things. With Organic gardening the gardener needs to learn an appreciation for the workings of nature without a human influence and the gardener needs to learn how we can all best fit into the workings of our landscape without having too much influence on it.
Green manure is a great way in which we can minimise our influence and impact on garden soil as it reduces the effects caused by our continuous digging and cropping of the land which in turn leads to the loss of nutrients, damage to soil organisms, damage to soil structure and soil erosion. Green manure is also great in that it reduces the amount of work involved in preparing a vegetable plot for the coming year.
What a gardener need to understand is that our weeds can be of great benefit to us as some add nutrients to the soil, other provide essential food for insects and mammals and others are found in our green manures which, when used on vegetables act like a blanket or living mulch over the soil keeping it free from invasive weeds while replenishing the soils condition.
To use these living mulches you simply scatter the seeds over the bare soil of the vegetable garden after harvesting in autumn, generally the seeds are spread very thinly at a rate of 3 grams per metre. Use a garden rake and lightly rake the seeds into the soil and then leave the seed to germinate and colonise the area. Over the winter months the green manure will maintain soil life instead of leaving it bare and lifeless. The manure will out complete other weeds such as chickweed and annual grasses that would otherwise invade your vegetable plot. The deep roots of some of the green manure will help to break up and loosen the soil maintaining good soil condition, drainage and air content.
In the following spring, once you are ready to begin sowing again, simply turn the top foot of soil over, burying the green manure under the soil. As these plants are annuals they will not grow back again and will instead add nutrients to the soil over the coming season as they decompose.
When growing green manure it is important to not allow the plants to go to seed otherwise a second generation of plants will grow when you want to grow your vegetables. So during the winter you will need to keep an eye on your plot and dig out any plants which are beginning to develop a flower head.