These consist mostly of clovers and vegetables and are valued because they help fix large quantities of nitrogen from the air, making it available to plant roots. Examples of such a green manure would be alfalfa, clovers, beans and peas.
These consist mostly of grasses and
grains and are best used for the short-term production of organic
matter for the garden.
Impoverished soils can also be improved with the use of cover crops. If you have soils that are harvesting lots of weeds, by planting a grass cover crop the weeds will soon be choked out and the grass will replace the soil minerals that the weeds took out.
When the crop is incorporated in the soil, it will immediately start to break down and should be replanted with a follow-on crop as soon as possible. In warm, humid weather, decomposition can occur in less than six weeks.
Clover is one of the most valuable of cover crops to grow, although as you will see below, this is also used as a green manure.
The four main cover crops invaluable for green-manuring, even when the same spot must be occupied year in and year out: rye, field corn, field peas or cow peas, and crimson clover.
Rye, as far as I am concerned, is one of the best cover crops that can be grown. It grows anywhere, even in chilly northern winters rye can be sown to resist erosion, control weeds and when turned back into the soil will provide very good organic matter. If you continue to grow rye over just a few winters, your soil structure will improve enormously and will encourage earthworms to take up residence.
If you want to plant rye as a cover crop sow 2-3 ounces of rye seed per 100 square feet of soil. Mow the rye in the spring and turn it under 2-4 weeks before planting your new plants or seeds.
After the 1st September, sow empty fields with winter rye. Sow all ground cleared during August with crimson clover and buckwheat, and mulch the clover with rough manure after the buckwheat dies down. Sow field peas or corn on any land that would otherwise remain unoccupied for 6 weeks or more. All these are sown broadcast, on a freshly raked surface.
To prepare the soil for a green manure crop begin by first chopping and turning under any existing plants growing in the selected area. Smooth off the area thoroughly until you get a fine tilth and add lime if necessarily. Sow the seed, cover with a thin layer of soil and water well.
Cover crops should always be worked into the soil before they have had a chance to seed or flower, because at this stage the plant is at its strongest and contains the maximum of nutrients. If you have a heavy cropping, it is best to chop the growth down before working it into the soil. The finer the crop is chopped, the quicker it will decompose and add the nutrients to your soil that you are after.
This is a legume that is a good soil builder. It has powerful roots. Inoculate the seed when planting for the first time. Sow seed in spring using 40 kg to an acre or 500 g to each 30 m2.
A winter legume cover crop that does best in fairly rich, loamy soils. Use 20 kg per acre or 250 g per 30 m2.
Another non-legume, these cover crops do better on poor soil than many other green manure cover crops. Plant thickly using about 17 kg to an acre, or 250 g per 30 m2.
A non-legume that can be grown on almost any soil provided the climate is cool and moist. Winter oats are only suited to very mild winters. Sow in the spring using 50 kg per acre of 500 g per 30 m2.
These are summer legumes that will thrive on almost any soil type and can withstand long periods of drought. Sow 50 kg per acre or 500 gm per 30 m2.
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