Green manure crops can be grown in clay soil, and it is a method of gardening that can help to improve this type of soil. The green manure crops can be purposefully grown, to dig them back into the soil.
It is not a difficult thing to understand or do, because you all you need to do is four things (preferably in late summer):
1. Prepare the soil.
2. Plant the seeds and rake them in.
3. The following spring, cut down the foliage and dig the crops back into the soil.
4. Leave the area at least two weeks before using the area.
When green manure crops are planted, they reach deep down and take the nutrients out of the soil and store it. When you dig them in, they decompose back into the soil, and as they rot, they gradually introduce nutrients back into the soil. This then gives plants a healthier area to grow in.
Green manure helps the soil structure become finer, by breaking down harder clay soils, while adding organic materials. They also help to reduce the growth of weeds, reduce erosion, and encourage the right type of bugs that are pollinators and ward off pests. This improves the area making it a lot friendlier for your plants to grow.
Which types of crops make the best green manure for clay soil?
1. Phacelia and buckwheat
These are two plants that make good green manure. When they are dug in and decomposed, they enrich the soil as well as attract insects that are very beneficial to the crops being grown. These plants will help improve clay soil very effectively because they are easy to dig in and break down quickly. They will help make your clay soil allow water in as well as make it more fertile.
Clovers are also effective plants for green manure as they break down easily enriching your clay soil. They are also rich in nitrogen, which will greatly help your soil.
Legumes such as fenugreek and field beans are best dug before flowering. Legumes help clay soil and grow during the cold seasons. Once they are dug in and decompose, the soil is left rich in nitrogen, which is essential to the cops you want to cultivate.
4. Winter hardy salad crops
These are crops such as miner salad and corn salad. These plants are easy to dig and break down quickly. They can enrich the soil quite well, meaning your clay soil will support the healthy growth of crops resulting in increased yields.
The moment you dig them, they will easily break down, leaving the soil enriched and convenient for growing crops. However, they are from the brassica family and can interfere with your crop rotation from time to time.
These are plants that will even grow in cold temperatures. Once you dig them in, they will decompose enriching your clay soil greatly. Although they may be difficult to dig and remove.
Other plants are effective for making green manure in clay soil, but the ones listed above are the best choices. Some green manures have roots that reach down very deep and are more suited for people that have the equipment to dig them up.
When you have clay soil, it is not necessarily acidic or alkaline, although a pH test will determine this. It is, therefore, a good idea to check this first and prepare the surface of your soil before planting your green manure crops. This gives your seeds a good start after sowing.
When you have clay type soil, the best green manure crops to grow are phacelia, buckwheat, clovers, legumes, winter hardy salad crops, mustards, and rye. Although some of them do have certain considerations that might make you want to choose another alternative within the list.