I am experimenting with using oats as a green manure for this years Big Garden. To be honest, my experiment began as an accident. My winter straw turned out to be full of oat seed. The farm boy I married assures me the green manure will aid this year’s vegetable garden.
Turning the Green Manure
Yesterday, was sunny and beautiful with temperature reaching into the low 60s (Fahrenheit.) The long-range forecast shows a slow but steady warm up. Winter may finally be gone. It is too soon to plant tender vegetables. But warm soil will soon follow the warming air. So, it is time to turn the green manure.
Fortunately, my Big Garden is small enough to utilize manual labor. The two of us made quick work turning the empty rows. Armed with shovels, the work took less than twenty minutes.
However, the row with the garden greens needed a little more attention. I hand pulled the oats and alternated between a hand trowel and a cultivator to chop them up and turn them under. This was a fairly easy process since the transplants have been in the ground for several weeks.
The final row was a bit of a disaster. Tiny beets were beginning to emerge. I am afraid there were some casualties. And I plan to reseed the row.
Benefits of Green Manure
The first positive of the oats is now gone. The plants provided an anchor for the soil over the last six weeks. From mid-March through April, we experience strong winds. For those of you unfamiliar with the High Plains, strong winds here equate to tropical storm and Category 1 Hurricane strength. Fortunately, the winds this year stayed below 100 m.p.h.
Now that the oats have been turned over, the chemical benefits of the green manure can take place. The vegetation acts similar to compost, enriching the soil for demanding crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and beets. My research indicates the turned green manure needs at least two weeks but no more than four weeks to break down the nutrients. Perfect timing as the soil needs to warm up a bit more before transplanting the tomato, melon and cucumber seedlings still under the grow lights.