Green manure cover crops

Categories: How To
Published on: August 21, 2015

West Coast Seeds

West Coast Seeds“Green manure” is the name given to cover crops that are planted for the purpose of adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil. These plants can be as effective as animal manure in producing humus, thereby increasing soil fertility and structure. Cover crops are inexpensive to plant, and serve multiple purposes. Best of all, they can be put to work during times of the year when growing food crops is not feasible.

A central concept of organic gardening is the notion of feeding the soil. We literally add organic matter to the soil to provide food for the organisms that live in the soil. They break down organic matter and minerals (and other elements) into forms that our crops are able to take up as nutrients. We want them to be able to do their work efficiently and to the best effect.

Aside from adding organic matter to the soil, cover crops have many other purposes:

  • They reduce soil loss from water erosion.
  • They maintain soil surface infiltration, so it does not compact.
  • Cover crops improve soil tilth (structure).
  • They scavenge nutrients that might otherwise leach from the field.
  • They feed and provide shelter for birds, wildlife, and beneficial insects.
  • They fix nitrogen in the soil.