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Trying an experiment with "Green Manure"

Post in 'The Green Room' started by Rhone, May 23, 2006.

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  1. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    Cool, like the idea of a green room.

    Here's my current green project I'm trying. The dirt at my property in the front is dead, for a number of reasons I won't get into. It's supposed to be living, and full of worms, microbial life, bugs, nutrients, decomposing matter, etc. What I have is dirt which comes in many forms but difficult to grow anything in. I rototilled the front of my property and planted green manure, will tell you how it turns out.

    What's Green Manure? It's a plant mixture designed to ADD life and structure into your dead dirt and intended to be tilled into the soil to add life, nutrients, and increase your soil depth. They're plants that are meant to grow fast, grow in harsh environments, tilled easily, break down fast, and serve a specific purpose. Some plants in the green manure are chosen for deep roots, whose purpose is to get nutrients deep in your soil and bring them to the surface. Their deep roots also decay deep, which increases your top soil depth and attracts worms and bacteria. Other plants, are intended to grab nitrogen from the air and store it in their leaves/pods or be a legume which adds Nitrogen to your soil. Once tilled, they add some mass but their main purpose is to add Nitrogen in a form plants can use in your soil. Others are meant for mass and intended to add a lot of food for soil organisms to thrive on when tilled into the dirt and turn your soil into a metropolis for microbial and worm activity.

    There's a difference between Green Manure and compost. Compost recycles organic matter and nutrients one already has. Green Manure creates tons of organic matter one didn't have to begin with. Compost recycles 98% of the Nitrogen, Green Manure adds tons of Nitrogen. A compost pile is a lot of work flipping it, Green manure is easy. Broadcast the seed, several months later till, 3 weeks later use.

    I'll tell you how it goes in a few months. Growing green manure and tilling it in should be the same as adding 9-11 tons of cow manure per acre, but cost me only $28 in seed and the tiller I borrowed. It's going to look like crap and sure the neighbors will love it but, it was the cheapest thing I could do to try to bring life back to my dirt and improve it's composition.

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  2. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Sounds like a great idea. Living soil beats dead any day.

    You can also stimulate microbial action in your soil by watering it with compost tea, Rhonemas. All you need is a handful of compost, a 5 gallon bucket full of water, an aquarium bubbler with an airstone and a couple tablespoons of molassas. Mix the compost and the molassas in the water, bubble for 24 or 48 hours, then use it to water the green manure. Multiply the volume of tea to meet the conditions. Once you till that stuff under the soil, the rapidly growing microbe population will help break it down and thus, help release the nutrients contained in the plant matter.

    Do you know the soil ph? You might want to lime it before planting the green manure if the ph is off.
  3. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    That's a good tip, thanks! I'll try that out when things get started.

    How does one find out what their soil ph is? I did buy a $32 soil ph meter which was very flimsy, cheap, ran on batteries, and you stick a probe into the soil and out comes a reading on a needle meter. I think the $32 better put to use in my insert and burned for heat.

    Where does one bring dirt someplace and have it professionally tested?
  4. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    You can buy a simple test strip kit at any garden center for a couple of bucks. Just dissolve some of the soil in some neutral water and dip the strip in it. Most bottled water should be neutral. You match up the color on the strip with a chart on the bottle, and you know the ph. If you've already planted the seed and it grows, however, you should be OK. The green manure should help neutralize the soil once it starts to decompose. After that, you can fine-tune the ph with lime if necessary.
  5. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    It might be good to test the soil soon anyway. Sometimes the soil is just lacking in one or two essential ingredients. Do individual tests at several locations if it's a large area. There are lots of good, simple testing kits out there. I prefer the chemical to mechanical testing kits. If you want it tested professionally check with your local agricultural dept. at the county level.

    We've grown green manure crops (aka cover crops) and they work great to build up tilth and nutrients in the soil. What type seeds are you planting?
  6. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Green manure should be good to grow irish potatos
  7. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    First thing I did after work yesterday was I bought lime and spread it. Elkimmeg said wood ashes does similar to lime and where I had thrown ashes on my lawn months ago the plants were "healthier" there than the rest of my property but I wouldn't go as far as saying they were healthy. My father (lives 4 houses down) put lime on his property and said he was impressed at the improvement. So, figured can't go wrong putting some down myself and listening to advice. My property is surrounded by red oaks, with the occasional maple.

    My green manure (cover crop) is 60% field peas, 25% oats, 15% hairy vetch.

    The 60% field peas because they like cool climates and love sandy soil like my property. They have shallow root systems, but quickly decompose and it's also a legume adding 100 - 200 lbs/ac of N. It should add 6,000 - 8,500 lbs/acre of biomass, won't overwinter, and easy to kill. But hates being water logged and doesn't handle shade well. This is my biomass plant particularly since it decomposes rapidly. It being a legume and adding nitrogen along with being easy to kill and won't come back is nice!

    The hairy vetch are also quick to establish. They have extremely deep roots and very good at loosening topsoil AND subsoil, good at increasing top soil depth, good at releasing P and K, very good heat & drought tolerance, very good shade and flood tolerance, very good in low fertility soil. It's excellent for increasing biomass, fair at suppressing nematodes, excellent at supressing weeds, very good for attracting beneficial insects and add 4,000-8,000 lbs/ac of biomass. Not as good as field peas in the biomass department, but still good. Also, a legume that adds 100-250 lbs/ac N. The hairy vetch is my deep rooter, chosen to take nutrients deep in my soil and bring them to the surface and increase my top soil depth, it will also take up the slack in those places on my property (shade) the field pea will not fair well. However, it's also borderline invasive and can overwinter so I didn't want to go too crazy with it, why 15%.

    The oats establish rapidly and for erosion control. It supplies good biomass (2,000-10,000 lbs/acre), and sucks up excess N to store and fair at releasing P and K. Very good at loosening top soil, poor at loosening sub soil, fair at releasing P and K, and fair at drought/shade tolerance and good flood/low fertility tolerance. It doesn't overwinter. Chosen to give the peas and vetch something to climb up mainly, and prevent erosion while they establish and since doesn't overwinter can't go wrong. Not bad biomass either.

    The three will be a several feet tall and that means weeds will be smothered, clover as well and why it wasn't my choice for a Nitrogen fixing legume, and the peas and vetch being vines are going to grow and search out any available space and fill in every crack, even climb over each other and up the oats so it should be very thick and net me huge amounts of biomass. I have to watch the hairy vetch that it doesn't become unmanageable. Probably need to till when the vetch is flowering. Alfalfa wasn't chosen for a couple reasons. Although its roots can be 12+ feet deep, it's a legume, great biomass, great adaptability, great at loosening top and subsoil, and bringing nutrients from deep to the surface, it also needs 2 years before being tilled.
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