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Using Green Manure Crops

Aug 18, 2007
I really like the idea of green manure crops. You grow some vegetative crop up to a certain point and then take your tiller and work it all into the soil. This operation probably takes a rear tine tiller like one of the Troy Bilt series tillers. I think it is a wonderful thing for the soil. Years ago, when I was working on this farm, I went to a farmers place over in Eastern Illinois. He was giving a seminar of sorts at his farm about using rye as a green manure crop on his farm. He would plant it in the fall after his crops were out and then in the spring he would work it all into the soil. It was a great idea but the only problem with it that I saw was if you had a wet spring it would take forever to dry out to the point where you could work it in. Then if you had to wait too long your whole crop would be late getting planted. I tried it one year in my own garden. In early spring I had a very nice dense cover of thick rye. But the wait for it to dry out to where it could be worked was interminable.

One of the best things I have used for green manure is buckwheat. You can plant it when it is warm. Just broadcast is and go over it lightly with the tiller. It does not take too much moisture to germinate so it is good to plant in the summer. It grows fast. If you let it go to flowering the bees in the area will really like it. I usually let it flower for a while just to show my appreciation for the bees work and then till it all under. It is a great soil builder. It does not take much seed to cover an area. The best place to find buckwheat is at a health foods store. Or if you live in an area where buckwheat is grown commercially you could probably get some at an elevator.

Another green manure crop that is worthwhile is soy beans. I would broadcast seed them and lightly till them under. Plant them thick. They do not grow as fast as buckwheat but they do fix nitrogen into the soil. You could also get soybeans at a health food store or probably get a bucket full from a local farmer or elevator.

One of the easy green manure crops I use are weeds. In the spring I will usually work the entire garden as early as possible. Each year I try to have part of the garden not raise anything for the whole year. So I let that section begin to grow weeds. When the growth is good and robust I work them into the soil. You have to be careful to not let them go to seed. But as much growth as possible is good. I can usually do this a couple of times a year on the garden section I am working on. I may in the fall plant something in that section or maybe not. During this period I may put some horse manure on or any other fertilizer materials I might have.

Green manure crops are something everyone should try. They improve the soil tilth and generate material for earth worms and soil bacterial and fungi to thrive on.
About the Author
Michael Dappert is a co-founder of Winco, Inc., a provider of wireless internet access to small communities in West Central Illinois. More articles and discussion can be found at Mike's Garden Blog and discusses a wide range of topics at Flyoverfolks.com .
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