4 Main Cover Crops for
Organic Farming Green Manures - Rye, Peas, Corn and Clover
crops invaluable as green manures: rye, field corn,
field peas or cow peas, and crimson clover. When these
plants are grown
for the sole purpose of slashing and returning to the soil, they are
known as green manures.
Green Manures are grown
primarily to prevent or reduce
soil erosion or to
provide nutrients to
plants that will be grown in that space.
TWO TYPES OF GREEN MANURES
Gatherers that covert the nitrogen found in the air into
the soil. Usually in the form of legumes.
Consumers that cannot perform this function, but use
whatever nitrogenous compounds are already in the soil.
Nitrogen Gatherers as Cover Crops and Green Manures
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, soy beans and peas. When
these crops are cut down and plowed into the soil they add nitrogenous
material to the soil along with other organic compounds. If you are
wanting to increase the nitrate levels of your soil, then you should
plant these cover crops.
For summer cover crops plant
cow peas, soy beans or summer vetch in late spring early summer, and
plow under during late summer, early fall.
For fall and winter
hairy or winter vetch which is frost resistant and crimson clover are
most popular, along with field peas. For crimson clover sow this during
mid-summer, winter vetch can be sown between July and September, and
field peas are sown in August or September. These times are for the northern
Nitrogen Consumers as Cover Crops and Green Manures
of grasses and
grains and are best used for the short-term production of organic
matter for the garden. Buckwheat, rye, cowhorn, turnips and rape. When
these plants grow l they do not add nitrogen to the soil, but
they take up in the soil. However, when these crops are plowed under,
they then add the nitrogen back into the soil.
both types of green manures are grown together for mutual benefit, as
one improves the nitrogen content, the other uses the nitrogen
produced. Rye and winter vetch are two such crops grow together.
Buckwheat and crimson clover is another.
Sometimes all 4 of these are
grown together during the summer month of
July either after an early
vegetable crop has been harvested or during the growing of the
USE COVER CROPS
AND GREEN MANURES
TO IMPROVE YOUR SOIL
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
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.
What are the Four Main Cover Crops?
main cover crops invaluable for green-manuring, even when
the same spot must be occupied year in and year out:
field peas or cow peas
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.
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
it under 2-4 weeks before planting your new plants or seeds.
When to Plant Cover Crops
the 1st September, sow empty
fields with winter rye. Sow all ground cleared during
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.
for Cover Crops
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.
clover is a valuable green manure, especially on heavy
it will improve the structure of the soil as it is deep rooted and has
lots of foliage. However, as if your soil is acidic your clover crop
will fail unless lime is applied shortly before seeding.
WORKING IN YOUR
Cover crops should always be worked
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.
Rye and vetch
should be cut and plowed under before it reaches 8 inches
in height, as after this it will be difficult and the results not as
you decide it is time to turn your cover crops under the soil, it is
important to place a layer of fresh or rotted manure on top of the
cover crop so that they are disked in together. The reason for this, is
not just in order to improve the soil by adding additional organic
material, but the bacteria found in the manure will help breakdown your
cover crop more readily, and therefore providing the following crop
with readily available plant food.
warmth of your soil in very important for this breakdown to be
effective. The ideal soil temperatures you are wanting
is 65 degrees F.
and above. Spring soils are too cold for this breakdown
to take place
quickly. If there is very little rainfall and water on the soil then
again the breakdown will be slow.
conditions are good, then your cover crops should break down within a
week. However, if the soil is cold and there is less water about, then
the break down could take twice that time, or longer.
MANURES AND COVER
Buckwheat as a Green Manure
green manure and one of the best choices for rebuilding poor or acidic
soils. It has an enormous and vigorous root system and is a wonderful
plant for attracting the bees. Plant seed in spring, and dig into the
soil before it sets its seed. These are very good honey
for your bees if you are a beekeeper.
Cowpea as a Green Manure
This is a legume that is a good soil builder. It has powerful
roots. Inoculate the seed when planting for the first time. Sow
spring using 90 lbs (40 kg) to an acre or 1 lb (500 g) to each 30 m2.
Fenugreek as a Green Manure
A winter legume cover crop that does
fairly rich, loamy soils. Use 45 lbs (20 kg) per acre or
1/2 lb (250 g) per 30 m2.
Millet as a Green Manure
Another non-legume, these cover crops
do better on poor soil than many other green manure cover
crops. Plant thickly using about 37 1/2 lb (17 kg) to an
acre, or 1/2 lb (250 g) per 30 m2.
Oats as a Green Manure
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 110 lb (50 kg) per acre
of 1 lb (500 g) per 30 m2.
Soybeans and Mung Beans as a Green Manure
These are summer legumes that will thrive on almost any soil
type and can withstand long periods of drought. Sow 110
lb (50 kg) per acre or
1 1 lb (500 gm) per 30 m2.
Wheat as a Green Manure
This is another non-legume that prefers
a fairly fertile soil with a pH of about 6.4. Sow in the
110 lb (50 kg) per acre of 1 lb (500 g) per 30 m2.
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