Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:24 pm
He does quite a lot for you, your garden. So now it’s time for a rest for the earth! Do you want to improve the soil in your vegetable patch using natural methods? Then green manuring is just the thing for you. Here you will learn what green manuring actually is, how it works in the garden and what advantages it has. With step-by-step instructions and lots of tips, we’ll show you how to give your garden a real boost.
- 1 Green manuring: What is that exactly?
- 2 Everything in order: Tips for crop rotation
- 3 Let’s get started: Sowing green manure correctly
- 4 Author
Green manuring: What is that exactly?
It’s actually quite easy: Green manuring is the term used to describe plants that improve the soil. They are planted on areas that would otherwise lie fallow and serve as protection and nutrient suppliers. So when your vegetables are harvested, you can plant different plants on your beds to boost soil fertility.
Behind the scenes: How green manuring works
The principle behind green manuring is very simple and the benefits are unbeatable:
The roots of the plants loosen the soil, making it more permeable.
When the plants rot and are worked back into the soil, they release nutrients and nitrogen into the soil.
At the same time, green manure effectively protects your bed from drying out and ensures that the soil is not eroded or washed away. Thus, the nutrients remain in the soil and are ready for your vegetables.
Garden wellness: the advantages of green manuring.
Probably the biggest plus of green manuring? Well, of course: it naturally helps improve the soil, and it’s great for your permaculture garden, too!
Green manure plants:
- root and revitalize the soil.
- improve the habitat for beneficial organisms under the soil (earthworms, for example, feel right at home).
- provide habitat for beneficial insects above ground (bees love phacelia and buckwheat!).
- protect the soil from drying out and erosion.
- bring nutrients from deep soil layers to the roots of crops.
- enrich the soil with nitrogen (clover, lupine, field bean, vetch, etc.).
- provide poor survival conditions for diseases and trigger space anxiety in weeds.
Who gets to loosen up? These plants are suitable
What you need? Well, of course, the right plants! These depend on:
- the season,
- the soil,
- the weather conditions
and how long the green manure should grow on the bed.
Tip: At the end of the article you will find special planting tips for heavy, sandy or nutrient-poor soils!
The correct sowing time also plays a role: Basically, a distinction can be made between pre-seeding, under-seeding and post-seeding, depending on whether the plant seeds are sown before, between or after the vegetable crop. Get an overview right now:
As a pre-seed or post-seed; is not winter hardy.
grows quickly and is cold tolerant
provides large amounts of nitrogen and has a very good soil rigidity, sprouts can be harvested
is sown between February-May
as a reseed; is not winter hardy
is a great bee pasture and has a soil-healthy effect
is sown until the end of August
as pre-seed or reseed; is not winter-hardy
covers the soil quickly and roots the topsoil extremely fast
is sown until September
as pre-seed, undersow or reseed; is not winter-hardy
can be harvested as a dry crop when sown in spring and used as a chickpea substitute
is sown until September
As a pre-seed for root crops; is winter-hardy
is the latest green manure
is sown between March-October
as reseeding; is not winter-hardy
has a strong weed suppressing effect and strongly roots the soil
is sown between June-August
as pre-seed, under-seed or after-seed; is winter-hardy
is good against soil fleas and leaves a very good soil structure
is sown between March-September
As a reseed for all soils on beds that will not be planted until the following year from the beginning of May; is winter-hardy.
causes a strong weed suppression in spring and has a high nitrogen output
is sown between June-October
Everything in order: Tips for crop rotation
First, let’s be clear: paying attention to crop rotation means thinking carefully about which vegetables or green manures to plant in succession on a bed. This way, you’ll ensure that your bed always has the ideal growing conditions for your vegetables.
Change the plant family in the bed every year! This also protects the plants from diseases.
The bed should be 20-30 percent green manure.
For nutrients: at least 20 percent of the rotation should be legumes and at least 30 percent deep-rooted.
Place winter-hardy green manure plants only in beds that will not be tilled before May.
Did you know? In organic gardening, fertilizing is directly linked to good crop rotation. It is the basis for an uncomplicated and fat yield of unbeatable good and healthy vegetables. Making your own organic fertilizer is also easy – try it out!
Let’s get started: Sowing green manure correctly
Dived into enough theory? Then treat your soil to a little wellness! Now we’ll show you step by step how to proceed with green manuring and equip you with the most important facts.
Always in with the seeds: Sowing green manure
As soon as your bed is not planted for at least 10 weeks, all lights are green. It makes the most sense to sow a green manure on beds that have been harvested from August or September at the latest. The growing conditions are still ideal and the beds will not be planted again until the following year.
In spring, on the other hand, green manure can usually be sown from the beginning of March. This makes sense for beds that you want to plant from mid-May. Here, the green manure no longer improves the soil, but acts directly as fertilizer for the vegetables you are growing here.
Before you get started, here are a few principles:
- Sowing time: How quickly and luxuriantly the green manure grows depends on the sowing time. A simple rule is that a day in August is like a week in September, is like a month in October.
- Seeding depth: Here you can remember: The coarser the seed, the deeper you need to hide it in the soil. Small seeds, on the other hand, should be placed only on the surface and rolled or gently raked to the maximum.
- Seed density: The shorter a green manure stands, the more densely you should sow it.
- Mixing ratio: The mixing ratio is important to prevent individual crops from dominating the whole mixture. Therefore, always calculate the ratio of the seed based on the recommended amounts.
- Where can I get the seed? You can get it in seed stores for green manures. These offer seeds from organic seed suppliers (ReinSaat, Bingenheim, Sativa) also in small packages for your home garden. If you want to grow peas or field beans, you can also get the seeds for them in grocery stores.
Loosen the bed with a garden claw or pendulum hoe, then gently level it with a rake.
Spread the green manure seed over the bed by hand.
And finally, carefully rake in the seed.
Tip: Sow fine-grain and coarse-grain seed in two separate steps. Sow the fine-grain seed when you have already worked in the coarse-grain seed. You can separate already finished mixtures again with a hand sieve.
What’s next: incorporating green manure
So, the seeds are well protected in the ground, find out what happens next here. Spoiler: Timing is everything here:
Let the green manure plants grow on your beds for about 5-10 weeks.
Mow down the plants with a lawn mower – at least 3 weeks before you want your veggies in the beds.
Leave the cuttings on the surface for a few days.
Then work it into the surface with a digging fork so the rotting process can begin quickly.
After you have worked them in, about 3-4 weeks should pass before you plant or seed your vegetables.
Important: In spring and fall, rotting takes longer – here you need to allow 6 weeks until you can replant the bed.
Tips for incorporating:
Don’t let the plants get too tall or form hard stems so they can be mowed with a lawn mower.
For the plants to rot well, good soil moisture, high temperatures and good soil aeration (no compaction) are important.
Basically, it is better to work in the green manure too early than too late!
You want it to go a little faster? Then you can also mow the green manure with a scythe and leave it as mulch. Then you plant the vegetable plants directly into the mulch layer.
Stay on the ground: the right substrate for your plantlets.
What does green manuring look like in the vegetable garden? And what to do if you want your vegetables to sprout vigorously even on soil with very special needs? Don’t worry, here are tips on how to best deal with the different habitats of your vegetables.
Which green manure for the vegetable garden?
Good planning is half the battle. Think carefully about which green manure you want to sow in your bed. Because: all have their advantages and disadvantages or one or the other deep-rooted hook. Here’s a checklist for green manuring in the vegetable garden:
Which vegetable goes in which bed? The green manure plant should be from a different plant family than the vegetable. This protects your plants because it prevents pathogens from spreading.
Deep-rooted or shallow-rooted plants? The deeper the roots, the better the soil is loosened and nutrients are transported to the top. But: such plants are also harder to remove.
Flowering plants? Great for beneficial insects in the garden, but due to the easier dispersal of seeds, at the same time, the likelihood increases that they will later also raise their little heads among your vegetables.
Quite heavy: dense soils
For dense and heavy soils, green manure plants whose roots reach deep into the soil are particularly suitable, as they also loosen deeper soil layers. However, make sure that you do not work the material too deeply into the soil, as this would promote undesirable rotting processes.
These plants are particularly suitable for loosening heavy soils:
- Field bean
- Winter rape
Give me more food: nutrient-poor soils
It’s quite normal for soils to become depleted after they’ve been used to grow vegetables. Your best bet is to plant green manure plants in the fall that will replenish the soil with nitrogen. These plants give the soil a kick:
- Field Bean
Anything but fine: sandy soils
Nutrients also hold less well in sandy soils. In this case, it’s best to plant the following deep-rooted plants:
The advantage is that they transport their nutrients up from deeper layers of the soil and release them slowly once they are incorporated.
Also, actually give the plants time to grow so they can form deep roots. Also, be sure to provide adequate watering, as moisture is difficult to retain in such soils.
Cool thing: green manuring in autumn and winter.
The most important green manuring is over the winter. It used to be thought that soil dormancy after harvest was necessary to allow the soil to “rest.” But in fact, it protects your bed from in cold weather:
- Drying out
- Washing away
A loosened soil can also retain water better, giving your vegetables the ideal conditions in the spring.
These plants will do your soil extra good during the cold season:
Tip: It’s best to consider: do you want to grow hardy plants whose roots are active throughout? Or do you prefer freezing plants that you only need to work into the soil in the spring, but not remove?
Just loosen up – with green manuring
Are you ready to tackle green manuring in your vegetable garden? Whether you’re reviving your bed after a busy vegetable season over the winter, giving it a little power boost in the spring, or preparing a whole new area to become a vegetable patch. It thoroughly mixes up the soil and attracts rows and rows of beneficial insects. At the same time, it ensures that your vegetables get all the essential nutrients they need to grow big, strong and incredibly delicious.