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Green to Gold

green manure sprouts

The best way to begin conditioning soil is to delay planting a full veggie garden and plant a crop of green manure.  If the folks in our area who were plagued by impossibly clay-rich soil could have known about green manure, the main source of income for the old money would not have come from inventing the formula for Coca Cola (“Co-Cola” as the locals call it) or textile mills.  Columbus might have then become a Georgian-style Lexington, Kentucky or something.  Instead, the soil made extensive farming and even owning horses an extremely expensive endeavor.  Imagine the start up costs!

Plowing this soil requires high-quality tractors and vast amounts of compost.  I sometimes imagine how difficult it would have been to settle this area with the combination of insufferable heat and humidity, predacious arachnids, poisonous snakes, mosquitoes from the Jurassic period, and soil packed so tightly that if we’d had coal available the main crop might have been diamonds.

Back to green manure… green gold for the soil.  Used as a rotation crop or a ground cover to keep the soil (and thus, the veggie roots) cool, these wonderful little legumes are then plowed under to add organic matter to the soil.  How important is organic matter to the soil?  Lots.


Once the legumes have been turned under, they set to work improving aeration, water retention, weed suppression, and since their roots were so deep they were able to bring up nutrients that other plants could not — so they introduce those nutrients to the well-worked portion of the soil.  Essentially, they act as the spa, massage therapists, and nutrition gurus frequented by celebrities and those who profited from the government bailout of certain nefarious loan companies — only for dirt.

Want a list of super-great green manures and links of where to purchase them?  Oh, I’m on it!






  • Michele - When JR & I had our 1200 square foot veggie garden we would plant a ground cover every fall. Then when they grew tall enough to fend for themselves we let the chickens and the ducks in. Between the 2 our garden flourished when others in the neighborhood floundered.

    Nice post and great informationReplyCancel

  • Kelly - We’re definitely planning this for the winter, even though that’s nearly a year away. Hopefully it’ll improve our sometimes sandy, sometimes clay-clogged soil.ReplyCancel

  • Barb - This is a great post Lacy. The ground cover crop also helps with erosion such as in our area with the little moisture and winds. Most farmers here, if they aren’t planting winter wheat, a lot of guys use Rye grass.
    Hope you had a great weekend!
    Momma BarbReplyCancel

  • Tipper - Neat post Lacy! I always wanted to try this technique.ReplyCancel

  • YDavis - Thank you for posting this and the link to where we can buy them. I will have to try this next year.ReplyCancel

  • CrossView - Very informative! Of course, I’m still thinking of just running with the whole red dirt thing and starting a pottery place! =PReplyCancel

  • Ann - You make me want a garden. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Fishing Guy - Lacy: I use my grass clipping in the garden as a mulch and put my leaves from the mower in the Fall to add nutrition to the garden. I’ve never planted a cover crop because the mulch would stop it from growing.ReplyCancel

  • gingela5 - I know nothing about gardening or soil (I think that’s well established) but you’re making me wish I knew more! Then maybe I could grow something!ReplyCancel

  • Laura - If Georgia’s farmers would have had access to this site back in the 1800’s we wouldn’t have Providence Canyon! We always plant the ‘back 40’ with clover. Not only does it help with crop rotation and organic compost in spring, but it also provides another food source for the deer, turkeys and other wildlife.ReplyCancel

  • Dawn - I am happy to say, now with the donkeys and the chickens we have plenty of manure around; not quite the same thing but I hope it works.ReplyCancel

  • forex robot - Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Falls Away » Razor Family Farms - […] is new on our site?  Check out our blondes in the buff, knitted dishcloths, nordic braided bread, green manure groundcovers, and a lullaby for a stormy night.  If that’s not enough then you’ll just have to […]ReplyCancel

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