Most gardeners are familiar with green manures and why they are so beneficial to use. For those who are just starting to get into gardening and may not have come across this term before, green manures are fast growing plants which are grown to cover areas of ground which are currently out of use. For example, you may sow green manures in the autumn after you have harvested the last of your vegetables from your beds (there are also green manures suitable for summer). Green manures provide cover for the earth, prevent weeds from taking over, prevent soil erosion, improve soil structure, and are great for improving soil fertility. The idea is that you grow green manures and when you are ready to use your bed again you dig them into the soil, thus returning fertility to the soil.
Plants typically used as green manures can also be beneficial in other ways. All of them attract beneficial insects to your garden and can be an important source of nectar for bees. Phacelia in particular is well known for attracting bees. Research carried out by Horticulture Research International found that pest damage to brassicas was greatly reduced by planting white clover with brassicas.
Crimson clover has long taproots which lift nutrients and minerals from deep in the soil and help the plants growing around them. Buckwheat is a fast-growing summer green manure which takes up phosphate and makes it available to other crops after the buckwheat has been incorporated into the soil. Mustard is very fast growing, attracts beneficial insects, and best of all it’s delicious in your salad! All of the green manures mentioned above (and more) are available for sale at the Irish Seed Savers shop. Click HERE to see more.