Squeezing a green manure in

Not all green manures are sown after the previous crop is harvested. You can squeeze a green manure into a tight cropping program by

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The first decision is usually whether to sow the green manure
You may want to plant the next crop (Crop 2 in the table below) only weeks after the current crop (Crop 1) is harvested, yet you want to somehow fit in a green manure and get the benefits in just a few weeks. So, you could sow the green manure with Crop 1 but at a very light rate or sow a green manure that is not very competitive.

Or you could wait a few weeks or months into Crop 1's development and then sow the green manure and allow it to get away at a time and in a way that will not cause problems for Crop 1.

What happens Crop 1 sown Crop 1 grows Crop 1 harvested Between crops 1&2 Crop 2 sown
No green manure Sow Crop 1 on its own Crop 1 grows alone Bare soil. No soil protection at harvest Bare soil. No green manure. Sow Crop 2
Green manure sown after Crop 1 is harvested Sow Crop 1 on its own Crop 1 grows alone No protection at harvest. Bare soil Sow green manure. It grows until Crop 2 is sown. Green manure gets going, but not as strongly as it would have if it had started under Crop 1 End green manure and Sow Crop 2
Green manure sown once Crop 1 is established Sow Crop 1 on its own Sow green manure while Crop 1 continues to grow. Green manure then grows under Crop 1 and establishes a "cushion" on top of soil. The roots provide many cushions in the soil to help protect it from heavy harvest machinery

Green manure cushions soil from harvest machinery.

Harvest frees the green manure from competition with Crop 1

Green manure takes off and grows on strongly, having had a good start already.

It further develops its ability to cushion the soil, this time from sowing machinery.
End green manure and Sow Crop 2 into lots of organic matter and nitrogen
Green manure undersown with Crop 1 Sow green manure with Crop 1 Green manure grows on under Crop 1 and establishes a cushion on top of soil. The roots provide many cushions in the soil to help protect it from heavy harvest machinery

So, whether you undersow a green manure or sow it while Crop 1 is growing, when you harvest Crop 1, the green manure is established and can take off. At this point there is reduced competition from Crop 1 which is dying or can be topped or slashed.

The green manure can produce good quantities of organic matter and nitrogen. A little later, you can end the green manure and sow Crop 2.

This is how you can have a well-grown green manure without taking much additional time.

Related info:

Grazing shock explains some of what happens when a green manure is slashed.

Green manures

Green manures in orchards and vineyards

Choosing a green manure mix

Green manures under sweet corn or tomatoes

Return a third to the soil

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This page was updated on December 27, 2007