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Green manure: what is it and how is it done?

Green manure: what is it and how is it done?

Have you ever heard of green manure? This ecological technique for enriching the soil is far from new: in ancient times it was commonly used to combat the depletion of soil nutrients. Luckily, it is not as difficult to use as it may seem at first and it is really beneficial.

If you want to learn more about this technique, which, luckily, is becoming more and more common, join us in this interesting practical gardening guide from EcologíaVerde in which we talk about what is green manure and how is it made.

What is green manure and what is it used for?

Green manure is not a fertilizer that we must make and then incorporate into the orchard or garden. It is a technique with which we can enrich the soil helping us with some plant species that help improve soil properties.

When the soil is left uncovered at the end of a certain harvest or we are simply not working it for a while, the sun and the elements punish the soil and the microorganisms, making it poorer and drier. On the other hand, if we take advantage of the seasons in which we are not growing anything to plant certain species that we will later mow or let dry naturally so that they are incorporated into the soil, we achieve improve its nutrient contentits properties and its ability to sustain future nutrient-demanding crops.

It is a practice used above all in orchards, when it is necessary to prepare plots of land that seem somewhat abandoned or mistreated, or when we want to prepare the soil for a crop very demanding in nutrients. However, its benefits also extend to gardens and ornamental spaces, since flowers are equally or even more appreciative of having rich soils.

Green manure: what it is and how it is made - What is green manure and what is it used for

Types of green manure

There are many types of green manure or different crops that can be used as green manure. Its convenience will depend on the specific details of our climate and soil, as well as the season in which we want to prepare the green manure or the crop that interests us after this.

The most common is to use legumes, due to their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen thanks to its relationship with rhizobia, beneficial bacteria. However, the selection of green manure plants It is very wide. These are some of the most used:

Fabaceae or legumes

As we have said, these are the most commonly used for their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. It is common to use vetches, lupins, clovers, broad beans or peas, among many others.

Grasses for green manure

Grasses usually give very good results, especially when combined with some legumes. A widely used combination is oatmeal and vetch. It is also common to plant rye or Italian ryegrass.


Cruciferous vegetables such as turnips, cabbages, rapeseed and mustard are also very good options and the latter, in fact, is one of the most used. This is because it has roots with great branching capacity and rapid growth. Mustard roots spread out a lot and break up the soil, leaving it looser and finer, which helps in its oxygenation and the development of the crop that follows it. In addition, in winter it dries up by itself, so if we plant it at the end of summer or in autumn, it will not even be necessary to mow it. Another advantage of mustard is that it keeps some garden pests at bay.

There are also other cruciferous plants that can be used to prepare and enrich the soil. Russian comfrey is well known for its great ability to grow and create plant mass. It is widely used in the production of slurry and compost, and even in the production of padding or mulching.

Buckwheat is a great option when we want to treat very poor soils, and the phacelia has the ability to attract bees and bumblebees, with all the benefits that this entails.

Green manure: what it is and how it is made - Types of green manure

How to make green manure – tips

When preparing to use this technique, follow these tips for sowing green manure:

  • The first thing will obviously be to choose where we will do it. It is about taking advantage empty spaces in the orchard or garden, which we then think of taking advantage of to cultivate something of interest.
  • It is also important, of course, to take into account the sowing time. However, here we have much more freedom than when planting normal crops, because the green manure only has to grow: it is interesting that the plant dries before flowering. This is because legumes and other species accumulate nutrients that they then deplete during flowering. Therefore, as soon as this begins to appear, we will reap our green manure cultivation. It is also possible to plant species that cannot withstand the cold in autumn, so that they dry out naturally when temperatures drop.
  • Simply spread the seeds of your green manure crop chosen on the area to be enriched. Spread them more densely than usual, as it is important that the plant cover is dense, and then cover the seeds with soil or a little compost.
  • When the crop has grown and its flowering is near, mow it down and shred the remains. Do not pull out the roots, which must remain in the soil to degrade naturally. Afterwards, you can simply leave the crushed remains on the ground or stir it slightly so that it deteriorates faster. Both methods are equally valid.

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