Green Manures

Now that summer is coming to an end and you are harvesting your vegetables, it is time to consider what you are going to do with your vegetable patch during the months in which you are not growing anything productive.

There are in fact a number of things you can do. The first is nothing. You can leave it barren and let the weeds grow as they will. This is not a good idea. You are creating work for yourself in that you will have to remove the weeds in the spring. Whats more the weeds will take nutrients from the earth which will need top be replenished.

The second is to cover the plot with black plastic. This will stop weeds growing and in fact will keep the soil that little bit warmer. It also makes an ideal place for slugs and snails to overwinter. It will mean that you will not have to weed in the spring but you will need to feed your soil. This is not difficult to do, just add garden compost to it in the spring.

The third, and at the moment the most favoured thing to do by trendy gardeners is to grow plants which are known as ‘green manure’. This is not a new tecnique, it has been around for a number of years but recently it has developed somewhat of a cult status and there are a number of new varieties available.

What it means is that you grow certain plants during the time you are not using the soil and just before you want to sow your seeds (or Plant), then you cut down the crop and dig it in.

The green manure plants are sown like grass. The roots fix nitrogen in the soil and by digging it in, you are adding bulk vegetable matter to the soil. This will make your soil a great deal more fertile.

If you want to use your vegetable patch early in the year, you can dig in your green manure plants early and cover your soil with plastic (black is best, it absorbs heat and prevents weeds germinating. Then, when the soil is warm you can take it off and sow your seeds earlier than usual. Remember, though, that your soil will then rapidly lose its extra warmth and you should then either cover your seed beds with fleece or erect cold frames over them.

One other thing, when purchasing your green manure seeds, make sure that they are for the correct season in which you are going to be using them. Like all plants, diferent varieties grow at different times.

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