How to Grow Green Manure – Trials and Tribulations

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Learn how to grow green manure and reap the benefits of a lush carpet of vegetation that helps protect and nourish your hungry garden soil. Green manure may not sound particularly attractive but actually, it is full of hidden benefits that largely go un-noticed.

Our trials of Field beans, Forage Pea, Red and White clover, Phacelia and Rye grass gave us the ideal opportunity to nourish and cleanse a new area of allotment space than had previously been left fallow. My guide highlighting the trials and tribulations experienced growing a range of crops,may help you decide the type of green manure to choose, following our trial will help you reap the benefits of the crop you decide sow.

Leaving bare earth through the winter is unproductive, often exposing soil to the elements can cause excessive leaching of nutrients and compaction from heavy rain, snow and frost. Whereas allowing green manure to germinate in the autumn will allow a lush green carpet to nourish and protect garden soil.

Forage Pea’s make a neat row of fresh silvery green leaves when young but as they develop they become rather a sprawling mass. Nitrogen fixating nodules of legumes make peas and beans and excellent, candidate for sowing as green manures.

My favourite crop to grow from seed for both uniformity, neatness and benefits to both the soil and the environment has to be red and white clover.

Sowing your chosen green manure is easy, choose to sow in Late Summer or Autumn and decide whether you prefer a hardy crop that continues to grow through the winter or an annual that will perish come the winter frosts.


Leaving you green manure in place during the winter months will help provide protection from extreme weather conditions and limiting erosion by providing structure for the soil by way of a fine root system.

Before your crop of green manure sets seed, it is important to cut or chop the foliage and allow the greens to wilt for a few days before beginning the process of digging in this rich source of organic matter.

Phacelia makes perfect for sowing in Autumn for a fast growing green manure, be careful not to allow green manures to set seed.

Leave the soil fallow for an additional two weeks to enable the green material to break down completely before planting.

Slugs and snails may be a problem on wet or shady locations but compare that to the benefit of your soil structure, the harnessing of nutrients and the environmental sound technique of growing green manure.

white clover, red clover, bird's-foot trefoil at Bradley Meadow
White and Red Clover makes a great ecologically friendly green manure.

No matter what type of green manure you choose, simply for following some basic rules you can add much-needed organic matter to your soil without it costing the Earth.


Stephen Pryce-Lea

Head Gardener and International Horticultural Consultant

“It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion grow together, in a Garden it’s like finding Paradise“

iGrowHort – A Head Gardener’s Horticultural Journey of love, life and learning.



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About Head Gardener 290 Articles
Award winning, 40 something year old professional plantsman and horticulturalist with National Trust, private parks and estate management background. My vast plant knowledge and hands on techinical experience, afforded me the opportunity to work in various horticultural landscapes, in the UK, USA & Eastern Europe. Having worked in both garden retail & the design service industry gave me the practical diversity and managerial skill set, required for running a large prestigious gardens and stately homes. I strongly believe knowledge is to be shared and have worked closely with people and staff of all ages and abilities keen to develop their passion for gardening, including groups of children, special needs and adults. I have hosted guided walks, talks and tours for those keen to learn about cultivated and wild plants, garden development, history and design. As an member of the NNCPG and National Trust, I am actively involved in the preservation of several important plant collections both in public and private gardens throughout the UK. “It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion grow together, in a garden it’s paradise” Follow @IGrowHort on GardenTags. Stephen is passionate about gardening as Head Gardener with a team of ten staff he manages a prestigious Cheshire country estate of 55 acres, inc wild flower meadows, woodland, organic kitchen and formal gardens. Follow Stephen today”

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