River Cottage Australia

How to Make Green Manure

Paul West shows you a low-cost way to improve the fertility of your soil using organic matter.

In Autumn 2014 Paul planted a few rows of broad beans and the time arrived for them to be slashed down to make green manure. The reason being is that legumes can greatly improve the fertility of your soil through supplying nutrients such as nitrogen. This is an old technique of organic soil management that is pretty low cost to make, as you are just buying the seeds and will greatly enhance the richness of your soil.

WHAT IS IT? Legumes such as broad beans are not grown to be harvested by the grower, but to be fed to the soil as an easy, cheap way to improve the fertility of your garden soil.

WHY DO IT? It’s a low-cost way to introduce nutrients such as nutrients into the soil. All you’re paying for really is the seeds!

WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO CREATE IT? Autumn is the perfect time to plant green manure crops in beds emptied of the summer harvest, in a bed that would otherwise be left empty over winter.

• It is an old technique of soil management that is pretty low cost to make, as you are just buying the seed.
• ‘Legumes in particular supply a valuable amount of nitrogen since their roots form an association with soil-borne bacteria that can transform nitrogen from the atmosphere into nitrogen compounds that can be used by plants. This is quite a complicated feat and one which can save you the cost of fertilisers. Different nutrients such as phosphorus are supplied by other green manure crops’
• A good healthy soil should contain a small amount of organic matter. Because decayed organic matter, or humus as it is called, is the key to soil structure, nutrient supply and the biological vitality of the soil.
• Drought Resistance: The presence of humus in the soil also increases the amount of water, which can be held in the soil. This is critical in making a garden drought resistant. In a dry season water applied to a garden is wasted if that water runs away and does not stay near the root zones of the plants.
• Another benefit of a green manure crop is that while the green manure crop is growing it prevents weeds colonising the bare ground left after the previous crop has been removed. In general it helps protect the soil surface from erosion and leaching of nutrients.

• Lawnmower with blades set to the highest setting
• Machete or scythe
• Spade for digging in organic matter


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