Growing 'Green Crops' or 'Cover Crops' through the year is a fantastic way of fixing your soil - Lupins, Mustard, Barley, Oats and Wheat are all super easy to grow, and super beneficial. Your soil will love you for it!
Green crops increase the number of beneficial organisms in the soil, improve soil fertility and control weeds. Areas of a garden that would otherwise be bare over the winter months can be put to work creating the perfect soil for your next crop of veges or blooms.
Mustard is a fast growing green manure crop which has a similar affect to mulching. Mustard improves soil structure, adds plenty of organic matter, provides fertility and micro-organism activity. Mustard will also help with the prevention of wire worm.
Blue Lupins are a great weed suppressant, Nitrogen fixer, nutrient booster and perfect for adding organic matter to your soil. Their long tap roots are fantastic at aerating heavier soils, and help to bring nutrients up to the garden level. Lupins also possess biofumigant properties. As beautiful as their flowers are, if you're growing them as a green cover crop, you need to cut them back before they flower (although we like to keep a few flowering, cos' why not?!)
Barley, Oats and Wheat:
All three of these green crops have the same benefit when added to your soil individually. They add protein to your soil and improve soil structure. Not only are these fantastic at suppressing weeds when growing, but studies have shown that residues left on the soil surface may chemically suppress weed growth, and act as a physical barrier to new weeds.
- Plant late Summer to Autumn
- Hoe/loosen the soil with a fork of your desired area.
- Sow seeds densely (Mustard 20g, Lupins 25g, Barley/Oats/Wheat 45g) per square metre over the bed and lightly rake in. Try and keep them weed free through winter.
- Water well
- Leave the crop for 7-8 weeks - chop them down and dig into soil (do this before they flower)
- Approximately 2 weeks later re-dig the soil before planting your new crop of goodies
Generally speaking, the plants you'll be planting back in this area will only feed from the top 10cm of soil, so when digging your green crop in, keep this is mind. Only dig in the soft green stems - hard, woody stems aren't much use, as they take too long to break down. Pop these in the compost!
Using a spade, dig in, turn over and dump it soil side up on the garden... move to the next chunk, and repeat. Once the entire garden is soil side up - it's time for a coffee (or something a little stronger!)
Handy tip: If you've planted quite a sizeable area of green crop, we find the easiest way to chop them down is a weed wacker (AKA the weed eater). Beats having whip out the garden shears! Revv her up, and you'll rip through the lot in a matter of minutes. Weedeaters are particularly good as they tend to cut them up into smaller bits, making a better and easier dig.