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How to grow and benefits of green manure crops (Broad bean)

green manure crops
Written by Dr. Shaun Murphy

How to grow and benefits of green manure crops (Broad bean)

Today we’re looking at growing green manure crops and in particular a productive one, it’s a technique that works well in all soils including clay and sandy soils,

it’s organic, environmentally friendly, and a great way of fertilizing and improving your soil. Traditional green manure crops include Tic Beans and Annual Lupins however we’re using a productive winter crop.

Green manure crops definition

  • Green manure is a cover crop sown on an agricultural plot in order to fertilize the soil for the following crop mainly through the intake of nitrogen.
  • This cover crop is sown between two sales crops (usually between two highly demanding nitrogen crops) or in combination with the previous crop.
  • Green manure provides an improvement in soil structure with its root system and a relatively little supply of stable organic matter.
  • Stable organic matter, as well as nitrogen intake for the following crop, are obtained after degradation of the plant by the soil’s microorganisms (microbial or enzymatic activity)…
  • Green manure consists of legume-based cover crops. The green manure cover crops can be destructed through:
    • Mechanical cultivation (grinding, cutting, landfill, etc).
    • A chemical application (herbicides – mainly glyphosate-based)
    • Freezing

The process of making green manure(step by step)

Remove weeds

  • This is our broad bean crop it’s been busy fixing nitrogen into the soil, we’ve picked the beans eaten some, and frozen some and now we’re ready to pull out the plants.
  • We’re going to use these as a green manure crop, and it’s simple.
  • Ideally, we will have pulled them out before they flowered, however, we wanted the beans as well.
  • The broad beans are out, there are a few weeks, there will be in any garden, so we simply dig all them out and again we’re using implement like little Hoe makes this sort of job very easy.
  • So we’ve cleared the garden bed of all of the broad bean sand. we’ve removed a few weeds that have been growing beneath them.

Chop the plant

  • We’ve got a wheelbarrow full of broad bean plants.
  • Simply place your broad beans on the ground don’t put them all down at once, it’ll be a little bit too much to handle, come along with a spade chop them up.
  • As you can see you chopped them up and that beat pile that you had diminishes greatly in size, we’ve chopped them up that’s fairly fine, that’ll do.
  • If you’ve got pieces that size doesn’t really matter.
  • It’s all nice and green but what we want to do is get this back into the soil as quickly as possible.
  • If you can’t be bothered chopping it up you could get out your motor mower over the top of it, catch it in a grass catcher and you’re going to have a very very fine broad bean green manure.

Chop the plant

Dig your soil

  • Now we’re back at the veggie patch and what we’re going to do now is a little bit of digging, we’re simply going to take out some soil and we’ll do this in rows.
  • Go as deep as you can without getting into the subsoil, the reason we’re digging that out in rows is that we don’t want to dig all of the soil out of the veggie garden then have to put it back in again, so it’s a sort of easier.

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Organic manures (benefits & preparation)

Put the chopped plant into the soil

  • Method to do, we’ve chopped up our broad beans and we’re ready to start putting them back into the soil it’s fairly simple you just take a handful to sprinkle along the hole.
  • After dug, we’re going to put in a little compost and a little bit of Vermicompost because you don’t need to do this step if you don’t have those products.
  • After that, it’s as simple as backfilling over the top and as we go along we’ll do the next row.
  • You’ll notice that the soil here is fairly dry at the moment so we’ll water this in after we finish the process and we’ll work our way through this whole garden bed.
  • We’re finished digging in our green manure.
  • What we’ll do now is, we’ll water this in well, and then we’ll put some mulch over the top,
  • then mulch over the top simply prevents weeds from growing, it’s also going to help retain moisture which is really going to improve the whole process so that’s it for green manure the easy way.

Other plants

  • You can, of course, use the other legumes that you dig back in before they flower but as we said we wanted productive green manure the broad beans were it, and they’re going to be fantastic for this soil.
  • One of the other great things about green manure is that the worms love it,
  • as it starts to decompose green manure will attract worms to your garden and that is beneficial.
  • There are lots of reasons to use green manure and there are lots of different ways of doing it.
  • If you want to go the traditional way you’ll so tic beans or annual lupins in late spring to the beginning of winter you’ll let them grow but not let them flower or set seed, so they’ll get around knee-high and then you simply dig the mover smash them b
  • ack into the soil at the end of winter you can try that as well green manure a cheap and very efficient way of improving your soil and remember it also works well in sandy and clay soil.

green manure crops examples

Benefits of green manure

1.Working on the natural issue and improved soil structure:

  • A significant advantage got from green manuring is the expansion of natural issues to the dirt.
  • Detailed increments of soil natural issue (SOM) following GM use regularly extend somewhere in the range of 0 and 1% of the all-out soil mass.

2.Nitrogen obsession:

  • Nitrogen obsession with vegetables is the key advantage of developing leguminous green fertilizer crops.
  • The bit of green fertilizer nitrogen accessible to a succeeding harvest is as a rule about 40% to 60% of the aggregate sum contained in the vegetables.

3.Improved soil microbial action:

  • A rapid increment in soil smaller scale life forms happens after a youthful, generally lavish green fertilizer crop is fused into the dirt.
  • The dirt microbs increase to assault the newly fused plant material.

4.Improved accessibility of local soil supplements:

  • Besides the expansion of nitrogen, vegetables help in reusing another supplement on the homestead.
  • Supplements are collected by green fertilizer crops during a developing season.
  • At the point when the green fertilizer is fused or set down as no-till mulch, these supplements become gradually accessible during decay.
  • Green excrements rummage supplements from the earth and translocate them upwards to the surface establishing zone, where they become accessible to the succeeding harvest.

5.Improvement in soil physical properties:

  • Green manuring effectively affects soil’s physical properties.
  • The dirt’s physical properties that are influenced by the joining of the green excrement incorporate the structure, dampness maintenance limit, consistency, and thickness.

6.Advantages of establishing activity:

  • The broad root arrangement of some green compost crops is exceptionally viable in slackening and circulating air through the dirt.
  • At the point when GM crops are planted after a sub-ruining treatment, they help broaden the dirt releasing impacts of the sub dirtying treatment.

7.Weed concealment:

  • Green fertilizer crops consume the empty space and light and thereby conceal the dirt and decrease the open door for weeds to set up themselves.

8.Soil and water preservation:

  • The dirt preservation benefits gave by green compost crops reach out past insurance of uncovered soil during non-crop periods.
  • The mulch that outcomes from a synthetically or precisely joined GM crop expands water invasion and lessens water dissipation from the dirt surface.

9.Improved harvest yields:

  • countless field tests have been directed to contemplate the impact of green manuring on the development and yield of different succeeding harvests.
  • The outcomes acquired for certain harvests have shown an expansion of 20-half in grain yields.
  • The valuable impacts of green manuring on yield however differ from harvest to edit. Rice has profited most;
  • wheat is straightaway, while increment in cotton and sugarcane yield is generally littler.

What is the no-dig method of gardening?

  • In a nodig regime, weeds are controlled by shallow hoeing, hand weeding, contact weedkillers, and mulching.
  • Debris is gathered up rather than dug in. Mulches are taken into the soil by soil organisms, and fertilizers are washed in by rain.

How to do no-dig gardening?

Step 1 – Select and Mark Location

No-dig 01

  1. Select a suitable location to construct a no-dig garden bed. Ideally, it should be on a fairly level surface, and it should receive 5 hours or more of sunlight each day. You can build the no-dig garden over any surface, over existing soil, lawn, concrete, or paved surfaces – the first step of the construction will vary depending on the surface.
  2. Either mark out where the no-dig garden bed will be, and build it without ‘sides ‘ or edging, or construct a raised bed (see article here).

Step 2 – Gather Materials

You will need the following materials:

  • Newspapers or cardboard
  • Animal manure or organic fertilizer
  • Straw bales or lucerne (alfalfa hay) bales or both
  • Compost

Optional materials:

  • Kitchen scraps, worm castings, rock dust

If building on hard or rocky ground, you’ll also need:

  • dry small sticks and branches, old dry leaves
  • dry seaweed (optional)

You will also need the following items:

  • If using cardboard – Bucket of water for soaking cardboard
  • Watering can or hose for watering

Step 3 – Preparing the Ground

No-dig 02

  • If building over an existing garden bed or soil, no additional preparation is required.
  • If building over concrete, paving, rocky ground, or other hard surfaces, first lay down a layer of small sticks and branches, twigs, and old dry leaves 7-10cm (3”-4”) thick.
    This layer helps with drainage so water doesn’t pool on the hard surface and creates waterlogged soil. You can also add dried seaweed (if you can get it) to this layer.
  • If building over lawn or grass, you can mow the grass very low first, or just leave it. Next, fertilize it with plenty of nitrogen-rich fertilizer (such as blood & bone or manure) and lime, then water it in. The fertilizer will help the grass rot down once it is covered up and buried under all the layers that will go on top of it.

Step 4 – Lay down Newspaper

No-dig 03

  1. Lay down sheets of newspaper in layers approximately 0.5cm thick (approx. 1/4” thick), and overlap the edges by 10-15cm to prevent grass or weeds from growing through.
  2. Using a watering can or hose, water the newspaper well.

This newspaper layer will hold moisture and act as a weed barrier. It will gradually break down over time.

If using cardboard, you will need to pre-soak it in a bucket of water first, which is not as easy. The other issue with cardboard is that it contains glue made of borax, so it’s really a second choice.

Use newspapers if they are available, and more importantly, do not use glossy printed paper or office paper, they contain toxic inks and bleaches, something you don’t want going into your food!

Step 5 – Lay down Lucerne

No-dig 04

  1. Lay down a layer of lucerne approximately 10cm (4”) thick over the newspaper.
  2. Using a watering can or hose, water in well.

You can use any other carbon-containing material such as peas straw, hay, sugar cane mulch, etc,

but lucerne is preferable because it has a higher nitrogen content than the other straw materials, and breaks down more easily.

The carbon to nitrogen ratio (C: N) for lucerne (alfalfa hay) is 18:1, while the straw is 80:1.

Step 6 – Lay down Manure & Compost

No-dig 05

  1. Sprinkle a thin layer of manure. You can also add compost to create a layer 5cm (2”) thick.
  2. Using a watering can or hose, water in well.

*** NOTE: If you want to add other ingredients such as kitchen scrapsworm castings, or rock dust into your no-dig garden, this is the layer you add them to.

Just use a thin layer, don’t overdo it! The worm castings and rock dust can also be used in the upcoming higher layers, but kitchen scraps need to be placed in this lower layer only to keep it well buried, this prevents vermin such as rats and mice from digging it up to get to it.

Step 7 – Lay down Straw

No-dig 06

  1. Lay down a layer of straw approximately 10cm (4”) thick over the layer of manure or manure/compost.
  2. Using a watering can or hose, water in well.

You can use any carbon-containing material here such as peas straw, hay, sugar cane mulch, etc.

Step 8 – Lay down Manure & Compost

No-dig 07

  1. Sprinkle a thin layer of manure. You can also add compost to create a layer 5cm (2”) thick.
  2. Using a watering can or hose, water in well.

*** NOTE: If you want to add other ingredients such as worm castings or rock dust into your no-dig garden, you can also add them to this layer.

Step 9 – Lay down Straw

No-dig 08

  1. Lay down another layer of straw approximately 10cm (4”) thick over the layer of manure or manure/compost.
  2. Using a watering can or hose, water in well.

You can use any carbon-containing material such as peas straw, hay, sugar cane mulch, etc here.

Step 10 – Make Pockets of Compost in Top Layer and Plant Up

No-dig 09

  1. Make holes in the top layer of straw approximately 10-15cm (4-6”) wide, and equally deep.
  2. Fill with compost.
  3. Plant seeds, seedlings or plants.
  4. Using a watering can or hose, water in well.

You can also add seaweed extract to the water when you water in the seeds/seedlings or plants.

Plants really do need more than the basic NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) of chemical fertilizers.

Seaweed contains just about every beneficial mineral, including all the trace elements that plants need, and it really helps your plants develop strong, healthy roots.

Now you’ve finished,  just step back and admire your newly constructed no-dig garden bed! It’s that easy, and that’s how you build it, in 10 simple steps!

The main advantages of no-dig gardening are:

  • The beneficial organisms within the soil will flourish in the undisturbed soil and, over time, will improve the soil structure.
  • The soil and the balance of nutrients are more easily maintained.
  • Losses of moisture and organic matter will be greatly reduced.
  • Fewer weeds due to the surface mulch of organic matter and the lack of bare soil.
  • Higher crop yields possible in some areas.
  • The lower temperature under organic mulch can be an advantage, especially in summer when soil temperatures can be excessive.
  • The seasonal effort of labor-intensive digging will no longer be required.

The main disadvantages of no-dig gardening are:

  • It may take longer to improve poor soil.
  • Pests within the soil are not exposed to predators.
  • Soil can become compacted or poorly drained if it is not properly managed.
  • Soil temperature under an organic mulch can be several degrees lower than bare soil, which can delay the development of crops.


About the author

Dr. Shaun Murphy