Green Manure An easy way to improve soil in winter

This autumn I am trying a mixture of green manure in my empty raised beds. Green manures are plants that are grown to improve the soil. These are then cut down and mixed in with the soil to add more nutrients.

I have bought a packet of seeds from my garden centre and it contains a mixture of rye and vetch. This mixture is suitable for autumn planting as rye and vetch are both winter hardy.

So once I had cleared two of my raised beds, instead of leaving them bare I planted these green manure seeds. I simply scattered a measured amount (according to the instructions) on the surface of the soil and then lightly covered them before watering.

Rye and vetch seeds

Within a week, I could see the seeds germinating.  As October comes to an end, the young plants are now filling the empty space in my raised beds. I am planning to cut these down in February. I will leave the cuttings on the surface for a few days and then dig them all into the soil. This will allow enough time for the green manure to be incorporated into the soil before planting in late March and April. Well that’s the plan, we will have to wait and see how winter fares this year!

Young rye and vetch plants filling up the raised bed

I had pulled out all the summer nasturtium plants from my raised beds … but as nasturtiums self-seed so easily, they have popped up here again! Not sure if they will survive the frosty winter.

Nasturtium seedlings are here again

There are different varieties of green manures, such as winter field beans, clover and mustard amongst others. Some are good for summer planting and others for winter.

Benefits of Green Manure

  • Puts valuable nutrients back into the soil
  • Prevents weeds from growing on your bare soil
  • Improves the structure of your soil, whether it is heavy clay or light sand
  • Nature friendly way of improving your soil, especially over winter when you are not growing much

If you would like to know more about green manures, you may find the following sites very helpful:

The Royal Horticultural Society

Garden Organic


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