This is a quick blog to show the benefits of sowing Green manure at this time of year.
Its got cold, really cold and I have conceded and finally got my winter clothes box from the attic. Last weekend at the allotment, we were constantly taking off and putting on our jackets, every time the sun was going behind a cloud. But this week has seen the first frosts, and the temperature consistently hitting zero at night. The evenings are starting to go dark roughly 5.00PM, and the allotment is looking bare.
Only the hardiest of vegetables will survive at this time of year, in fact we are down to just our leeks we are saving for Christmas, a few cabbages (pointed sweethearts) which I will no doubt pull this weekend, both variety’s of kale we are growing, and a few pepper plants in the greenhouse.
With the beds all cleared and weeded, there are three options you can take for preparing your beds for winter.
1) The first is to simply just leave the beds and let the freezing winds and winter temperatures freeze and thaw the ground, and kill all the weeds naturally.
2) The second is to cover the bed with a suitable material, we use black PVC, (damp proof membrane, available at all hardware shops). This creates a barrier between the soil and the sky and suppresses any weeds by starving them of the sunlight that then need to photosynthesise.
3) The third option is green manure. Green manure is a term used for any plant that is grown, normally over winter or at the end of the growing season, which is returned to the ground as a rich fertilizer. Green manures are generally fast growing plants that provide good ground coverage that suppresses light to other weeds. They also have good deep penetrating root systems, which are ideal for aerating the soil and breaking up tough ground. Certain variety’s are also high in and important sources of nitrogen for your soil.
There are many different types of green manures available for differing soil types. Some are better for ground coverage e.g. Field Beans or Mustard Seed, while other green manures are nutrient-rich and great for improving soils e.g. Tares or Alfalfa, while a third group of manures are particularly good at attracting beneficial insects to your plot, e.g. Red or White Clover.
As we try to extend our growing season as long as possible, we are only freeing up most of our beds now, when the weather is very much wintry. This means that attracting insects is not of importance but ground coverage, and enriching our soil for the next growing season is important. The best choice for us to use at this time of year are field beans, which provide excellent coverage and will add much-needed nitrogen to the ground in Spring when they are returned to the soil and fertilized.
We sowed our field beans roughly 2.5 inches apart at row 20 cm apart, and roughly 1 inch deep. After sowing, the seeds are well watered in, though it was necessary for us as the sky was turning black, and heavy rainfall was predicted. This is our first time growing field beans but we have been told of their rapid growth even in these poor growing conditions.
What are you all getting up to at your allotments this month, why not let us know by sending us a comment below?