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Green manure, what do I do with these ones ?

 
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Hello, a while ago I've bought a few different type of green manure. The thing is, I have no idea what I can do with them !

From what I've read, some of them will have little nodes at their roots, where they basically store nitrogen; however, if I let the plant grow until it goes to seed, will it leave some nitrogen there, or use it all ?

Here are the green manure I've bought:

White clover
Mustard
Lotus corniculatus
Phacelia
Melilotus
Camelina
Borage
Flax

Now, each of those plants are different, and some have a variety of use (medicinal, fiber...). How do I use them properly ? I'd love to be able to get the benefit of green manure, as well as enough saved for seeds, as well as enough left over for more classical uses (medicinal, fiber, etc). However as I'm starting my journey, I'll still sleep if I need to buy green manure seeds again next year for example.

As far as I know, white clover and mustard will have nitrogen nodes at their roots; do I need to cut them and drop the leaves on the ground, bury them ? Will the plants regrow ? What about the others I've talked about ? Could these be used as mulch too ? Are there some kind of categories for green manure, like this one hold soil and prevent erosion, this one is good to make a big compost pile, this one feed nitrogen into the soil...

Thanks you for reading.
 
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Location: Deering, NH
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I am planting borage with the strawberries this year - it's supposed to be a good companion plant for them.

I also bought some white clover to use between my rows to help as a living mulch and weed suppression.

I look forward to other replies to your thread.
 
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hau Mike, Clovers and borage are really good N fixers with nodules of bacteria that do the nitrogen fixing (as long as your soil has the proper bacteria to create and populate the roots).
N fixers such as these do not give up the stored nitrogen (actually ammonium) unless the root dies and decays, this is one of those what you thought is not how it really works things.

I like your list of plants there, you can mix them up and grow a very diversified crop of green manure or you can chop and drop them as a mulch layer (actually better than digging them in).
If you let these plants go to seed, you will have them in the in soil seed bank and they will sprout and grow year after year as self seeding plants. Most folks don't do that though, most simply grow them one season and chop them down so the roots will die and decompose under the layer of mulch created by the top side of the plants  just cut down.

My personal preference is to use these plants (N fixing) both as a cover crop (for chop and drop) and as part of permanent pastures, where they grow and are eaten, those that aren't go to seed and there is the next batch of seedlings on the way.
The best plant for preventing erosion is Lucerne (alfalfa) the roots are massive in number and deep in the soil (over 4 feet deep is normal), clovers are great for this too.

Good luck, let me know if you have questions, there are lots of us here to help you out.

Redhawk
 
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Rachel Hankins wrote:I am planting borage with the strawberries this year - it's supposed to be a good companion plant for them.



I don't really understand this, I've seen several people mention it but still, strawberries are low growing plants and a single borage plant will get to 4ft high and 3ft round before flopping over to around 6ft round.. how it can be planted anywhere near anything short I do not get. It also self seeds very very well and you will soon have all borage and no strawberries. Having one somewhere near might help with pollination if you have an issue with that.



Here's some borage in July it got quite a bit bigger than those photos by the time the frost killed it in October (the poles are around 5ft 5 tall)
 
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I've also had Borage plants that got huge, but I wonder if they could be pruned to stay small enough to live near strawberries...and the prunings used as mulch for the strawberries....
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Borage is a plant that responds well to pruning and cutting back.
I never let mine get taller than 2 feet and if I need seeds from it I bag the swords as soon as the pollinators are finished with those spears.
Other wise I cut the flowering spears and we use the flowers in salads or dry them for a tea blend.

Redhawk
 
Rachel Hankins
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Skandi Rogers wrote:

Rachel Hankins wrote:I am planting borage with the strawberries this year - it's supposed to be a good companion plant for them.



I don't really understand this, I've seen several people mention it but still, strawberries are low growing plants and a single borage plant will get to 4ft high and 3ft round before flopping over to around 6ft round.. how it can be planted anywhere near anything short I do not get. It also self seeds very very well and you will soon have all borage and no strawberries. Having one somewhere near might help with pollination if you have an issue with that.



I've read that they attract pollinators but also predatory insects that feed on the bugs that like strawberries. Also I've read they improve the taste of strawberries - I've also read that about basil and tomatoes.

I am going to keep an eye on them this year and trim them back as needed. This will be my first time doing it.
 
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Mike Lafay wrote:Hello, a while ago I've bought a few different type of green manure. The thing is, I have no idea what I can do with them !

Now, each of those plants are different, and some have a variety of use (medicinal, fiber...). How do I use them properly ? I'd love to be able to get the benefit of green manure, as well as enough saved for seeds, as well as enough left over for more classical uses (medicinal, fiber, etc). However as I'm starting my journey, I'll still sleep if I need to buy green manure seeds again next year for example.


Because you are trying something new it is time to apply the permaculture principle of trial and observation. You did not make it clear if this was for field or garden or both. Your soil and conditions are unique, therefore planting patches of each and mixtures that you can observe and try different uses.
Not all the plants need to be saved for seed; Mustard for example can get huge and produce a lot of seed. Allow one or 2 plants to grow to maturity and when the pods turn yellow cut the plants and put them in a plastic tub and allow to dry then stomp on them to get the seeds out.
In my field I allow some alfalfa and flax to mature then cut it with a scythe. I then use that to mulch bad spots in my field and it drops seed which is protected by the mulch and grows the next season.
The flax fibers are long lasting therefore a good mulch to lay between row crops. White clover is nice as a ground cover in wide pathways that you may want to plant in or use the soil from another season.
You have aske a question large enough for a book. so write your observations down and make your own book.
 
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Hello Mike,

I want to second everything RedHawk said, particular about the seed mix.  I wanted to add just one more item—Comfrey.

Once you get comfrey going, it won’t stop, so make certain it is planted out of the way.  Comfrey is a perineal and after the second year it will produce copious amounts of chop and drop fertilizer.  Alternatively, you can make compost tea, but this is not strictly necessary.

You could grow s little patch of comfrey somewhere and get several harvests per season—just cut to the ground.  Don’t worry about the comfrey plant itself, it will grow back quickly.  

Alternatively, you could grow comfrey with a mix of any/all of the other plants on your list.  I tried growing some Dutch white clover with my comfrey 2 years ago.  I spread it too thin and in too small an area to be efficient, but the comfrey just keeps getting bigger and better.  Presently I have s nice layer of woodchips around my comfrey plants and come spring I plan to add a bunch more chips and inoculate with wine cap mushrooms.  I have lots of woodchips inoculated with wine caps so I don’t know why I didn’t think of this earlier.  

The reason I mention is because judging by your list, you appear to be interested in some companion planting.  If this is the case, mushrooms are a fantastic companion for everything on your list.  This is not necessary, but mushrooms have really helped the vegetables in my garden so I am curious as to what effect they will have on my green manure crops.  I also may try sowing more Dutch white clover, but more broadly just to see what comes up.

Mike, these are all just some ideas, and maybe this is all too much for just starting out. That’s OK, there is no reason you can’t try any/some/all of these ideas down the road if you are so inclined.  I would love to know how your project works out, so please keep us updated.

Good Luck!

Eric

 
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