Every Autumn I allow a part of my veggie patch to go fallow. What this means in essence is that it is having a rest. I figure that once my Summer crops have been removed the soil really can do with a bit of time out to regain composition, nutrients and vitality after such a productive time.
Summer, being peak Harvest Season, is exhausting for me as a gardener with the abundance of food my garden provides, so after such a prolific time, I know the soil is equally tired. Soil after all is a living organism, so it totally makes sense.
Leaving a piece of land dormant will mean that I am allowing it to regain energy. But, if land is left for too long it has potential to also grow unwanted weeds. That is a scenario I don’t want to allow to happen, especially in the cooler wetter months when the climate will provide a perfect storm for weeds to go gangbusters.
So a good thing to do for the land is to grow a green manure crop whilst you plan for the next Season crops. I do this each Autumn as good practice. It is the perfect time in my climate where food production is slow with the soil temperature dropping. Note, you can grow Green Manure crops anytime of the year.
What is Green Manure?
Green manure crops are composed of really nutrient dense matter, which are chopped down once grown and returned to the earth. Digging it back in the soil will remediate the soil. This will be especially beneficial for the seasons ahead. We know Summer is a time for hungry crops such as tomatoes and corn, so some pre-preparation via green manure in Autumn, your Summer crops two seasons ahead should really see the benefits.
Building up your soil profile is a great thing to do for Mother Nature. Depending upon the type of green manure you specifically spread, the good news is, it is a very easy thing to do.
Before you go ahead, it is vital to know what your options are and how they will benefit your soil.
Types of Green Manure crops & what they do:
Green Manure crops consist of differing types of seeds. Be mindful of what you are spreading and what it will do to your soil.
- Mixes that contain oats are great for overcrowding any weeds popping up in your garden bed.
- Whereas seed mixes which contain legumes (peas & beans), fix nitrogen to the soil. So any nitrogen hungry crops to follow will benefit greatly. These include leafy vegetables like lettuce, silverbeet, cabbage, Asian Greens and so forth.
- Mustard plants are a great organic way to fumigate your soil to eliminate nematode and fungal pathogen issues.
How to Plant a Green Manure Crop:
1. Dig up your soil and remove any clod like formations, which prevent good planting conditions via poor drainage.
2. Spread the green manure seeds thickly and generously over the soil.
3. Using a rake, cover the seed with Munash Organics Revitalize – our special blended compost, as this will stop any opportunistic birds eating the seeds.
4. Water the crop in well with diluted Munash Organics Renew – our special blend of mineral liquid fertiliser.
5. Allow the crop to grow for approximately six weeks, and when long enough, cut the crop with garden shears (or scissors if crop is only on a small space of land). Ensure you cut it prior to any flowers appearing otherwise the nutrients will be lost with the soils energy going towards flower production instead of in your garden patch. If planting legumes (peas & beans) cut down before it gets a woody steam, which takes a lot longer to break down. Ideally, you are looking to producing a lush young soft leafy crop, which will not take long to decompose. The end result being is that you wanting to plant over it in a few months time after the magic has happened.
6. Allow two weeks to pass after your first chop and dig – by digging in the green manure crop a secondary time it will decompose much more rapidly. After a further two weeks it should be ready to plant out your next vegie crop.
You can purchase green manure seeds from your local nursery or online. Alternatively, if you like to recycle like I do, hunt your own pantry shelf or gardening seed stash for old expired seeds which do still able to sprout, and make up your own mix. This could be made up of things like beans such as broad beans, fenugreek, yellows & black mustard, lupins, barley, feed oats, brassicas and wheat.
Essentially you are providing a really lovely rejuvenation to your soil via the green manure crops. It not only repairs soil structure ensuring healthier crops, enables better water retention but also draws up minerals through the soil profile and builds up the mineral count. If you’ve not done it before, give it a go this Autumn.
Words by Hey Hoe Let’s Grow