If you’ve already cleaned out your garden, consider growing green manure. Green manure is a cute gardener’s term for a cover crop.
Green manure cover crops give you an easy way to build up your garden’s soil without hauling around truckloads of organic matter. One of the most popular “green manure” cover crops is winter rye. It’s inexpensive when compared to large volumes of organic matter. It also grows very quickly, making it a good choice for early fall use. Apply winter rye at the rate of about 1lb. per 100 sq. ft. Let it grow until it’s time to turn the garden over at planting time the following spring.
Winter rye features an extensive, fibrous root system that holds the soil in place over winter and during heavy spring rains. Rye’s root system will also absorb nutrients, especially nitrogen, and store it. These nutrients will then be available to your garden plants after you turn it under in spring.
Gardeners with heavy clay, or very sandy soil will find that a cover crop of winter rye is an excellent source of fiber and organic matter that will greatly loosen and build a better soil structure.
Considering the benefits of winter rye and how easy it is to grow, you should consider making it an annual part of your soil improvement efforts.