Is it worth sowing a green manure?

We’re often asked about sowing green manure crops after a summer harvest. This has its benefits and can be effective, but we find it is something that is not entirely straightforward. With this in mind, we usually recommend a slightly different approach.

What is a Green Manure?

Essentially, sowing a green manure means sowing fast-growing plants that are beneficial to the soil. Examples include Phacelia, Mustard, Winter Vetch and Rye. The (very simplified) idea is that you grow these plants, they draw up nutrients from deep within the soil, and then you cut them down and dig the foliage into the soil. By doing so, the top soil is replenished with nutrients for your next crop.

Why doesn’t Rocket Gardens feel it is straightforward?

For three reasons:
1. We find that it provides a wonderful habitat for slugs and weeds to flourish, which is not ideal in the veg patch.
2. Whilst the concept sounds simple, we find it actually takes some experience to do it properly and effectively.
3. It can be hard work (lots of digging in) and time consuming (waiting for the green manure to rot down).

What’s an alternative way to re-boost the soil?

We like the No-Dig concept. In autumn, after harvesting plants you simply spread a thick layer of compost or another organic mulch (like well rotted manure) on top of any empty beds. Then, you can either replant for autumn/winter, or you can cover with black polythene ready to plant again in spring.

It’s very straightforward and simple to replenish the soil this way, and whilst we know there are many gardeners out there who swear by green manures (with good reason) we just prefer the simplicity and effectiveness of this approach. It works well for the novice gardener too, and for those who don’t have so much time available to spend in the garden once the summer is over.