The Lowdown on Green Manure


If you do not have access to brown manure, try green manure!  Okay, that was a poor attempt to make a joke, but I thought it was kind of funny….

In reality though, jokes aside, green manure can replace animal manure with great results!  It adds organic matter to the soil, prevents soil erosion, adds nitrogen(if a leguminous crop), suppresses weeds and retains nutrients in the soil.  Now, I’m all for animal manure too, but using green manures is a great way to diversify and give your soil that extra boost, especially if you have sandy soil like we do.

Another name for green manure is cover crops.  Does that sound more familiar?  Some refer to a cover crop as a green manure when it is tilled back into the ground.  There are three ways to use a green manure crop.  It can be planted in the fall to overwinter and then tilled under in the spring before planting.  Green manure can be a main crop for the whole year, then tilled under the following year to plant.  Or, it can be undersown.

What exactly does undersown mean?

Undersowing is growing a green manure alongside a vegetable or fruit crop.
Most of us do not have the room to plant a green manure as a main crop, leaving it until the following year.  Undersowing a green manure is a great way to satisfy space and time issues.  When we plant a green manure, we use a leguminous crop, usually a type of clover.  Sweet clover, dwarf white clover, red clover, hairy vetch and soybeans all work well as green manures.
A good rule of thumb is to plant the green manure 4-5 weeks after your vegetable crop has been planted.  This allows the vegetable or fruit to become more established.  Weeds also start to emerge around this time.  These should be tilled under before you plant the green manure in between the rows.
Try to squeeze in as many rows of green manure as you can without overcrowding too much.  Remember, this will help suppress weeds, and if you only have one row of clover planted in a 24 inch wide path, weeds are going to overtake it.
Let me give you some examples.
Undersow soybeans in between corn

white clover in between root crops

sweet clover in between squash

hairy vetch in between beans

white clover in between cabbage
I learned so much from the pioneer of organic gardening, Eliot Coleman.  His book, The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener (A Gardener’s Supply Book) has a chart all laid out with green manure crops and crop rotation.  I felt like I just went to an organic master gardening program and beyond after reading this book.  My favorite above all gardening books!

Get it today and plan your garden with ease!

Go to Johhny’s Seeds Comparison Chart and find green manure crops just right for you!

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1 comment on “The Lowdown on Green Manure

  1. I have a tiny but productive! garden and love learning new tips like this…thank you..I am going to think about this new manure.
    i am your newest follower and am looking fwd to learning about life on a farm and goats!!
    Pls follow back if you can.

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