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Lay the groundwork for next year’s growing season, says Benedict Vanheems. Over-wintered green manures sown now will help to protect your soil, crowd out weeds and add valuable organic matter and nutrients. It’s a wise gardener who takes advantage of these natural helpers


This time of year is one of flux for the kitchen gardener, as summer advances and gaps begin to appear where crops once stood. It’s hard to admit it, but the best of the growing season is past us and… whisper it… the cooler months of autumn and winter aren’t far off.

But this article isn’t about writing off the summer and resigning yourself to the cold to come, far from it! It’s about hope and sowing the seeds of success – quite literally – for next year. And green manures are how you’re going to do it!


Green manures are any plants grown for the sole purpose of improving the soil to benefit future crops. Some are very short lived – mustards, for example, may be dug in just a month after sowing – while others will stay in place for months at a time while the ground isn’t needed.

It’s not unreasonable to question what a green manure actually does. Depending on what you grow, a green manure will offer one, and usually more of the following benefits.

ADD ORGANICMATTER: Any plant material that is grown then dug into the soil or severed and left on the surface will eventually rot down, contributing to the soil’s humus content. Humus is the dark, organic matter in the soil that helps plants growing in it to thrive. Humus-rich soil has better structure, so it’s both slower to dry out and less likely to become waterlogged.

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About Kitchen Garden Magazine

This month - Keep fresh, harvest and storage tips plus grow grapes and soya beans. Wow factor - Try globe artichokes and cardoons. Feeling drained? Share the highs (and lows!) of gutter gardening. Herbal treats - make a handy herb box and visit a grower's paradise. Fun with fungi - a beginners guide. Plus pruning for fruit, cash savers, feed your soil the organic way and fantastic exclusive videos in our custon iPad edition.