Our new garden has some good stuff in it, like the lovely old brick wall down one side, a few pretty hellebores and a magnificent magnolia tree.
It’s got good bones, but there are also a few eye-sores, the cement-block wall behind the garage isn’t very pretty and there are plenty of brambles and weeds to be dug up.
Weeding is one of the first jobs to be done, but it’ll leave bare stretches of soil that’ll need planting before the weeds move in and I have to start all over again. So I’ve decided to sow seeds as the cheapest and easiest option, until I decide what to grow there permanently.
My first thought was to sow hardy-annual seeds, but I’ve plumped for green manure instead. Despite its’ unpromising name that suggests something a bit unpleasant, it’s simply a covering of fast growing annual plants that are cut back or dug into the soil after a few months.
As well as covering the ground and keeping weeds away, these little treasures have other benefits too:
- the nutrients from the soil taken up by plants as they grow, are released back into the soil when the plants are dug in, so nothing is lost,
- the chunky little plants improve soil structure when they’re dug in, best done when the growth is young and soft,
- their dense covering of the soil stops rain from washing nutrients away,
- types like clover and yellow trefoil will grab nitrogen from the air and release it into the soil when the plants are dug in, thus enriching the soil,
- they make a bit of shelter for beneficial insects.
There are lots of different types of green manures tailored to the type of soil and the time of year that they’re planted. I’ve got myself a spring mixture of mustard, vetches & italian ryegrass that’ll germinate at this time of year when the temperatures are a bit low.
Green manures are usually used in vegetable gardens, varieties like field beans are perfect to sow in autumn on the allotment where they can be left over-winter when much of the ground is bare, but they’re perfectly good for gardens, especially if you garden organically.
This natural approach really appeals to me, it’s sustainable and and seeds are good value too.
Though Bonnie is happy in the garden whatever is growing there.
all photos: Jill Anderson