Green Manure

A green manure crop is one that can be grown over a season when the bed is not in use, often fall and winter, and later tilled into the soil to improve the fertility. A green manure crop grown over fall and winter also prevents the soil from eroding and compaction when not in use.

A cover crop should be tilled under about a month before you plant your garden. This presents a problem for gardeners in areas where the soil wet in early spring. In these regions, plant your cover crop early so that it can be tilled under in late fall to decompose over winter. The damage done by working wet soil outweighs the benefits of the green manure.

Before planting, clean up the garden area and remove all crop debris. Rake the soil to remove clumps, and sow the seeds when rain is expected.

Where to Buy Green Manure Seeds

Cover Crop
When to Sow
When to Turn Under
Alsike clover
(Trifolium hybridum)
spring or fall summer or spring
Crimson clover
(Trifolium incarnatum)
spring or fall fall or spring
Hairy vetch
(Vicia villosa)
spring or fall fallor spring
Soybeans
(Glycine max)
spring or summer summer or fall
White sweetclover
(Melilotus alba)
any time any time
Yellow sweetclover
(Melilotus officinalis)
any time any time
Buckwheat
Fagopyrum esculentum)
late spring or summer summer or fall
Oats
(Avena sativa)
spring or fall spring, summer or fall
Rape
(Brassica napus)
spring or summer summer or fall
Sudan grass
(Sorghum vulgare
var. sudanense)
late spring or summer summer or fall
Winter rye
(Secale cereale)
fall spring


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