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In the vegetable garden, vegetables, fruit and herbs draw nutrients from the soil over the course of the year. In order for the plants to thrive again in the following year, nutrients must be supplied to the soil again. This can happen with green manure in autumn or winter. Plants such as clover, lupins, phacelia and yellow mustard are suitable as green manure.

Why fertilize?

Plants need nutrients to grow. Especially when they form flowers and fruits, they have one high nutrient requirements. In nature, the soil always contains many nutrients due to rotting plant remains and dead small and micro-organisms. This is not necessarily the case in a garden.

Mixtures or monocultures, which do not occur in nature, are usually planted. Plants that are always the same constantly remove too many nutrients from the soil. Even the smallest creatures are not present in the natural quantity in the front yard in front of the terraced house. The soil is often heavily compacted by the heavy construction equipment, so that the plants cannot take root as well, have no access to the deeper layers of soil and thus grow less well.


Green manure has several advantages. The plants add nutrients to the soil. In addition, their roots loosen up the soil, which allows more microorganisms and small creatures to settle. These in turn ensure a permanently loose soil and also reach depths that the root system of typical green manure plants such as clover and lupins cannot reach. The floor will aerated, rainwater can penetrate and drain better, no waterlogging occurs.

Suitable plants

Immediately after flowering and harvesting, the soil is exhausted. For green manure, it makes sense to sow plants in the fall that primarily protect the soil nitrogen respectively. These should be fast-growing plants that can be cut and incorporated into the soil before winter. Are suitable:

  • Chickweed
  • yellow mustard
  • lupine
  • Phacelia
  • vetch
  • pea
  • clover
  • beans

These plants very quickly form leaf mass in which they accumulate nutrients. In addition, the plants can easily be sown on the harvested area. In the case of Phacelia, for example, 150 g of seeds are sufficient for a full 100 square meters of garden land. The plants form 300 to 500 kg of green mass over October and November. It contains about 1 kg of pure nitrogen.


Easy care for green manure

Green manure plants are not demanding. The soil must be prepared a little: weeds should be removed, the surface of the soil must be loosened. Then the seed is sown. Spread evenly on the land and work in lightly with the rake. After that, watering is advisable. On extremely dry days it is necessary to water so that the green manure grows better. More care is not necessary.

Cut and mix

Green manure works because the leaf matter of the plants is not completely harvested and used as animal feed, but because it is at least partially incorporated into the soil. The roots must also remain in the ground. They form symbioses with microorganisms that accumulate nitrogen in the soil and thus ensure longer-lasting fertilization.

Are the plants only ten inches high or lower, they can simply be plowed into the ground with the winter furrow incorporated will. Only larger plants have to be chopped up beforehand. Incidentally, there should be at least three weeks between incorporating the green manure and sowing the next crop.

So if you sow green manure in the fall after the harvest, you can cut and work under the plants in October or November at the earliest. Because the green mass needs some time to be decomposed in the soil. Only then is the soil ready for the subsequent crop. Applying green manure in the fall and sowing in the fall for the next spring does not work. The next culture is usually not established in the garden before November or December.

Different plants serve different purposes

advantages and disadvantages

Green manure is complex and can do a lot. The different plants in question all have different advantages and disadvantages:

  • Improvement of the soil structure and formation of humus: clover-grass mixtures, grasses
  • Erosion control: clover-grass mixtures, pasture grass, swede
  • Supply subsequent crops with nitrogen: peas and field beans (both not hardy), clover-alfalfa mixtures, lupins
  • Reserve nitrogen for the following crop: Green oats and green rye (does not survive the winter), mustard or turnip rape, oilseed radish
  • Loosening deep down: lupins, oilseed radish, alfalfa (perennial cultivation), field beans (not hardy)
  • Weed suppression: Phacelia, ryegrass or perennial clovergrass stands



Spinach is a goosefoot plant. Sowing must be done by mid-September, October is too late. In addition, with cold frosts is a fleece cover sensible. Spinach traps nitrate and improves the water retention capacity of the hummus. However, it should not be sown before or after chard, beetroot or reporting.


Alfalfa are legumes that collect nitrogen and loosen the soil. As a result, compacted, diseased and very heavy soils become more planted again. Alfalfa is good for compost. The plants are sown by August and grow in autumn.

winter beets

Winter turnips, also known as turnips, are just conditionally suitable for frost. They are sown in August. They usually survive the winter because the seeds are continuously tested and increased.

winter vetch

The winter vetch is a butterfly family and is sown from the end of September to October at the latest. The plant collects nitrogen and forms a large root mass. However, it is unsuitable for heavy soils.

the winter pea or field pea is sown in mid to late October. It accumulates nitrogen, is good against weeds. And it leaves a good bottom finish.

spelt is suitable for late sowing even in November or early December. The grain offers primarily soil protection in the winter.

bitter lupine must be sown by early September. The nitrogen collector unlocks the soil.

winter rye can be sown as early as August/September, incorporated in November. On sandy or very humus-rich soils, winter rye even stays in place until spring. It leaves behind a finely crumbly soil and suppresses weeds, as a preceding crop it is suitable for potatoes and beans, but also for cabbage. Whereas he doesn't get along with corn.

Even Lamb's lettuce suitable for green manure. But the lettuce must be sown by the beginning of October at the latest. Then it roots well into the soil and leaves it with a fine, crumbly consistency.

winter rye

Healthy garden soil lives

Phacelia, Persian clover, yellow mustard and yellow lupins can be sown in autumn to late autumn. Seeds come up quickly and plants can be cut and incorporated into the soil before winter. Because these plants grow very quickly. They loosen the soil with their roots. Once the cut plants are incorporated into the soil, they are decomposed by microorganisms.

Up to 10 billion ray fungi and several million protozoa live in the upper 30 centimeters of one square meter of soil alone. The living beings do a good part of the work. But they can only do that if one of the 100 to 200 earthworms that live in the top 30 cm of garden soil per square meter brings the greens under the ground. The earthworms do a good job, they pull green plants underground in their tunnels, eat them, excrete nutrient-rich residues and make the plant residues usable for some microorganisms.

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