The word for this month is MULCH, MULCH and more MULCH. What can I use? How can I make it?
Pea Hay: this is a great weed free mulch which is easy to store, but for most of you this can be a pretty expensive option. One option is making your own in the form of green cropping.
The advantage of using green crops is that they have a multitude of benefits, other than than keeping in soil moisture. Some of these benefits include: Feeding nutrients back to the soil, building soil carbon, and providing a barrier to weeds, both while they are growing and once cut.
Following are the main green crops we use:
Oats and peas; Usually together, with the oats providing good carbon and the peas fixing nitrogen.
buckwheat: A great carbon crop which you could let flower to attract beneficial insects before chopping down.
mustard: quick and easy and a good soil cleaner, though not to be used before or after brassicas….Helpful in the greenhouse.
Lupins/ broad beans: both these are mainly used as nitrogen fixers, but because they are quite stalky they are a useful carbon source too. Broad beans are best in the cooler months as they are not frost tender.
Clover: This year we are experimenting with clover as a living mulch with some of our brassicas and corn. So far it is working well as a weed suppressant, and moisture retention.
We usually cut our green crops down at least 3 weeks before planting leaving it to rot (this will take longer in the cooler months).
Sourcing Seed: Garden centres , M10 and farmlands usually have mustard and Lupins in larger bags than standard seed packs, farmlands usually carry sacks of oats. Kings seed (online) sell quite a selection of green crops usually available in 1kg packs.