What are green manure and why sow them

Green manures are fast-growing crops that help make the soil more fertile. In the process of growth, they develop a powerful root system, which raises useful substances from the lower layers of the soil to the upper ones. Siderates can be left to winter in the garden or dug up along with the ground. The tops and roots will rot in the soil, due to which it will become even more nutritious.

If you grow the same crop in a permanent place, the soil becomes poorer and the crop becomes worse. Sowing green manure is an alternative to fertilizing. This method will be not only environmentally friendly, but also economical: a bag of seeds will cost several times cheaper than the required amount of nutrient mixtures.

Green manure also helps to fight weeds. Their rapid and active development simply inhibits harmful plants. Sow useful crops in the unsightly corners of the garden, and spend the time freed from tedious weeding on something more pleasant.

How to choose green manure

Several plants are suitable for improving the soil. You can sow anything without hesitation. Or approach the issue thoroughly and choose green manure depending on what you are going to plant after it.

Best green manure: white mustard
White mustard. Photo: Nick Pecker / Shutterstock

White mustard enriches the soil with sulfur, which is not tolerated by many pests and fungi. This green manure helps to heal the garden bed, where phytophthora raged. Mustard is recommended to be sown in tomato greenhouses or on land where potatoes will grow.

The best green manure: rye
Rye. Photo credit: weha/Shutterstock

Winter rye increases the content of potassium and nitrogen in the soil. It quickly grows green mass, feels good on any soil and tolerates frosts. Also, rye is able to retain moisture in the soil. Most often, potatoes, tomatoes or pumpkins are planted after it.

The best green manure: oats
Oats. Photo: dior3/Shutterstock

Oats protect future crops from rot and will be a useful precursor for all plants. Choose this green manure if there is clay soil on the site – it will make it lighter and looser.

The best green manure: rapeseed
Rape. Photo: Anna Mente / Shutterstock

Rapeseed will prepare the ground for planting eggplants, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. It will grow well on loamy and clay soils. Thanks to the lush bright yellow flowering, rapeseed will also decorate the site.

The best green manure: winter vetch
Winter vetch. Photo: Ilona Lablaika / Shutterstock

Winter vetch is best sown before planting cabbage: the legume grass will provide the soil with everything necessary for the development of strong heads. This bindweed enriches the soil with nitrogen, effectively displaces weeds and makes heavy soil looser. Carved leaves and delicate purple flowers will look pretty on the site. By the way, winter vetch reproduces by self-sowing. Many summer residents take it for a weed and try to destroy it as soon as possible, although in fact it is a useful plant.

The best green manure: phacelia
Phacelia. Photo: Bk87/Shutterstock

Phacelia grows well on any soil and is suitable for sowing before any crops. Its foliage quickly decomposes in the soil, enriching it with nitrogen, humus and other useful elements. In addition, phacelia begins to bloom rapidly after 6 weeks after emergence, turning the bed into a bright blue carpet and adding decorativeness to the garden.

Best green manure: spinach
Spinach. Photo: BearFotos/Shutterstock

Spinach is not only effective, but also edible green manure. It develops quickly and, depending on the variety, is ready for harvest in 20-60 days. During growth, spinach transfers useful elements from the lower layers of the soil to the upper ones. When the greens are ripe, just cut them off and send them to harvesting, and leave the roots in the ground – they will rot and provide additional nutrition.

When to sow green manure

You can do this in the fall, immediately after harvest. In most regions, sowing begins in September-October. Usually, before the onset of frost, green manure has time to germinate and develop a root system. They are left for the winter, and in the spring, after the snow melts, they mow all the greenery and dig up the beds. Rye, oats and rapeseed are best suited for autumn planting.

Throughout the summer, fast-growing siderates are sown in order to improve the beds in a short time. For example, mustard can be planted all season long. But spinach seeds are best sent to the soil at the beginning or end of summer, since this plant needs a relatively short daylight hours to develop.

In the spring, siderates begin to sow as soon as the soil thaws. But you need to have time to do this no later than 3 weeks before the planned planting of the main crops. To improve the soil in the greenhouse, mustard and spinach are most often used. For spring sowing in the open field, you can also choose rapeseed, vetch and phacelia.

How to sow green manure

Green manure seeds do not require preliminary preparation.

Prepare the garden

Remove all plant debris by the root. Dig the soil onto the bayonet of a shovel, breaking up large earthen clods, and level the surface with a rake. Pour plenty of water over the bed and wait until it is absorbed.

Sow green manure

How to sow green manure
Frame: Country agronomist / YouTube

Spread the seeds generously and evenly over the surface of the bed. Sprinkle them with soil in a layer of 2–2.5 cm. If the soil is dry, you can water it again from a watering can with a diffuser nozzle.

How to care for green manure

These plants do not require special care – only regular watering will be enough. Focus on the surface of the soil and do not allow it to dry out. It is best to constantly keep the bed in a moderately moist state and water it as needed. With autumn crops, as a rule, this is not required at all due to heavy rains. And with the onset of frost, you can forget about watering until spring.

When and how to mow and bury green manure

If you sowed the plants in the fall, leave them for the winter and wait until spring. With the onset of heat, mow the tops with a flat cutter and send it to the compost. Loosen the soil with a chopper or cultivator to a depth of 5–7 cm.

With spring and summer crops, you need to wait until the green manure grows to 20–40 cm. After that, they are mowed at the root. And then you can dig up the bed, along with the tops, on the bayonet of a shovel, trying to plant the greens into the soil. This mass will gradually decompose and enrich the soil with useful substances.

When to bury green manure
Frame: Garden Medvedev / YouTube

It is also permissible to send green manure to the compost and loosen the ground with a cultivator or chopper to a depth of 5–7 cm. Another option is to leave the tops right on the garden bed. In the future, it will serve as a mulch, stop the growth of weeds, retain heat and moisture in the soil.

2-3 weeks after the green manure is planted in any of the ways, the beds will be ready for the planned crops.