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no-till/green manure questions


Joined: Apr 26, 2011
Posts: 14
I have very poor clay soil that I have been doing standard raised bed gardening in for a few years, and this year I have been trying to go with more "organic" ( I hate what that word has become) techniques.  I have about 250 sq ft of corn directly in the ground, along with my onions and a few others.  My corn had a less than stellar year.  Last year it got almost 9 ft tall and had ears almost a foot long, this year, it got barely 6 ft (some is still under 3ft), and the ears, while good eating, are only about 3-5 inches.  I am planning some fall crops of peas, and hopefully some crimson clover or something as an overwinter cover crop (for the whole backyard, not just the corn plot).  what I am curious about is how you get the green manures into the soil without tilling?  do you just stop watering for it and plant in between?
John Polk

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6879
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
My suggestion for any king of gardening (no till or otherwise) is not to pull plants after they are finished growing/producing.  The plant spent its entire life building a root structure as deep and massive as it was capable of.  The roots have tilled the soil.

Even in poor, hard soil, it probably managed to explore an inch or two deeper than previous crops had.  This is adding life and depth to the soil...why would anybody want to remove it?  There is a colony of microbes living around each root segment now, and as it dies and begins to decay, new microbes will move in and consume it, converting all of its nutrients into forms that future generations of plants will utilize.

As it rots, a foot or two below the surface, new soil life is being born around it, and also creating air pockets where oxygen and water enter, thereby allowing worms and other critters to work deeper and deeper each year.

Every cubic inch of soil contains millions of living life forms, limited only by availability of food.  If food is available below the frost line, they will migrate there as weather dictates.  Billions of 'slaves' working for you...all they ask for is food.

The caveat:  If you have annual crops that have been damaged/destroyed by soil-borne disease, I strongly suggest that you remove as much of the plant as possible (and do not replant that species nearby for several years)
Ingrid Groen

Joined: May 16, 2011
Posts: 9
Location: The Netherlands
The green manure is already in the soil with its root. The part above soil you can let die off.
If you want to put another crop on that spot, just take away the above soil part an put it in the compost, while leaving the surrouding green manure grow. Another method would be to lay the green manure on the soil and it will provide shelter for the young crop an in the case of clover etc it will provide instant food for the new plants. Whatever suits you best.


Keep trying new things! The pioneer in us, keeps popping out. Sometimes it stays a little longer out.... and I feel lucky!
subject: no-till/green manure questions