Weeds chopped in

Digging in the green manure

“Digging in the green manure” is not nearly as gross as it sounds. For one thing, there’s no poop involved!

On Fathers’ Day we came home from ten pin bowling to discover a brief moment of sunshine, and two sleeping children in the back of the car. Hello, opportunity!

So, I took half a moment to snap this photo:

Fallow garden bed
Fallow bed, before we started work

… and then it was straight into some impromptu gardening.

This bed (if you’ve been following along) has been growing nothing much at all over the winter. It started out with self-sown broccoli plants, but our visiting bunny rabbit ate most of them up (we pulled the plants for him, it wasn’t like a Killer Rabbit moment). The chickens finished off what was left, well before the end of winter, sadly.

Planting new crops mid-winter is a bit of a dud job, so it was just left fallow until last Sunday. We yanked out a tall, seeding, broccoli plant (too woody to work well as green manure) and then went to work chopping those weeds into the garden bed.

Stephen working the soil with a garden fork
Stephen is using a garden fork to loosen the soil

Stephen started off with the garden fork, getting some air in around the established roots. As soon as that picture was taken, I ducked back into the garage for the shears and hacked up the top leafy material into smaller chunks.

Then I took the garden spade and chopped into the ground, slicing up what was left and pushing the green material into the dirt. Note that we moved aside our irrigation pipes BEFORE attempting this! 🙂

Me, using the spade to chop up weeds
Me, throwing the spade into the soil to chop up the weeds

 (Usually I would be wearing a hat, but this bit of sunshine was a rather miraculous break in the awful wet weather we’ve been having, so I didn’t have it in the car with me. I am, however, demonstrating how to do yard work in a medieval kirtle. Just because.)

Once this was finished, a quick level with a small garden hoe and the soil was looking pretty darn good:

Weeds chopped in
Weeds chopped in, soil looking rich and dark.

All this chopping and churning means that the worms and garden micro-organisms will be able to digest up the goodness from the dead weeds much more quickly, turning it into good fertile soil with lots of broken down organic matter. This means we won’t need to use as much added fertiliser (such as animal manure) before planting our next crop. This bed will be growing tomatoes in the Summer — a pretty hungry crop — so we will be adding some cow manure before planting. It turns out we’ve run out just at the moment, though!

Never mind, we’ve covered up the soil with a cardboard box and some mulch until I can run out to the store for some more. That will keep the moisture and goodness in, and slow down germinating weeds. We will let this bed rest with a good layer of mulch for about a month, before the tomato seedlings (yet to germinate in the greenhouse) are ready to go in. This will allow the green manure time to break down, releasing the useful nutrients just in time for our hungry crop!

In the meantime, Spring is making an appearance in the garden:

I hope you are enjoying the turn of the seasons, wherever you may live!

2 thoughts on “Digging in the green manure

  1. Thanks for the info on tomatoes, Jess. I am about to rework my pots so that I can plant my new tomatoes. I didn’t realise until recently that you shouldn’t plant tomatoes into the same bed/pot as last year’s crop. I gleaned that info from our beaut Organic Gardening magazine (thanks for that too!). I’ll follow your advise about digging in some manure and enriching my soil before planting.

    1. I didn’t realise you didn’t know that about tomatoes! 🙂

      For anyone else reading along, this is to avoid pest Nematodes from building up in your soil, which attack the tomato family of plants. This includes capsicums (bell peppers), eggplants and also potatoes, so we keep those plants going round and round our beds to avoid them going in the same patch of soil twice in a row.

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