Friday, October 12, 2007

Green gold

The plot is starting to go to sleep now so I'm working my way through my beds to get them ready for overwintering (those I'm not going to use, anyway - I have four still up and running, mostly for winter brassicas but also for chard and Japanese onions).

The main weapon in my arsenal against the winter weather is green manures - I'm a real convert, after trying them last year. They're basically just weeds under a different name, but you harness them to your own ends. So long as you don't let them get out of control (not difficult, since you basically kill them in spring) you've got free fertiliser that looks after your soil all winter, too.

This year I've branched out from grazing rye and am trying red clover, too. This is the bed where my mid-season peas and beans were growing - full of lovely lush green foliage, keeping the soil surface from cracking up, holding goodness in the soil and preventing the rains from washing it all out.

I'm hoping that this (a legume) will be a double boost for fertility: not only will it help inject nitrogen when I dig it in in the spring, but it'll also fix nitrogen from the air, a quality common to most legumes. That's also why I chose it for this particular spot - you should always choose green manures of the same vegetable group as the one it's following. So if the bed was used to grow legumes, like peas and beans, you can use a leguminous green manure; but I wouldn't have used, for example, mustard, as that's a brassica and I'm planning to grow cabbages here next year so if the mustard caught club root, I'd be clobbered.

It sounds complicated but it's actually quite easy once you get the hang of it. Who would have thought there would be so much involved in growing a load of weeds?!

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