I really like the idea of green manures. I don’t like seeing bare earth, and I like weeds even less, so the thought of covering the ground with Red Clover, to carry on the good nitrogeon-fixing work of the peas and beans, or Rye Grass with its allelopathic qualities, really appeals. I had visions of all soil nicely covered by either over wintering crops or green manure, of happy soil, and next year, happy crops. Hah! I sowed Red Clover on the bean and pea bed in early September, and I thought it had germinated well.

Failed Red Clover

Spot any clover? No, me neither. Either the annual weeds have completely smothered it or it never germinated in the first place. At the moment I am thinking the latter. As for the rye grass, well, just look at all that lovely weed-suppressing nutrient-fixing growth.

Failed Rye Grass

Yep, total failure. I feel humiliated. It’s too late to sow more red clover, even if I hadn’t already sown what seed I had. I do have more rye grass, and I will try again, but honestly! I fear I got the sowing depth wrong on the rye grass, but can only think that I just didn’t water the red clover enough. What a waste. I may try Field Beans as an alternative to the clover.

As if all that wasn’t enough, various “stuff” got in the way and I missed the opportunity to sow Spring Cabbage and calabrese. I really want the allotment to be as productive as possible for as much of the year as possible, so I decided to get some plug plants. It certainly decreases the cost savings, but that is only a small part of why I am growing my own, and even then, if I compare the cost (£1.75 for five plants) with that of buying organic cabbage from the supermarket, it still makes sense.

After looking around at what was available I decided to try Delfland Nurseries. WellyWoman (what a great blog name!) had blogged about buying from them, they seemed to have a good reputation, and the delivery charges weren’t too bad. So, I ordered 5 plugs of each of spring cabbage ‘Duncan’, spring cabbage ‘Spring Hero’, calabrese ‘Pacifica’ and perpetual spinach.

Cabbage 'Duncan'

They arrived quickly, in good health, and with nicely moist and well developed root systems. So, on one of those lovely autumn days earlier this week I trundled up to the allotment to plant them out.

Beautiful Day

It was impossible to stay down on such a beautiful day, despite the green manure failures, and despite the fact that buying plug plants felt like cheating. Given the pigeon problem up here I put the cabbages in the same bed as the purple sprouting broccoli and netted the lot.

New Cabbages

Thankfully there was very little wind, so the netting went OK, although I think the end result would have been tidier if I hadn’t been doing it solo. It seems extraordinary that such tiny plants could survive, let alone thrive, over winter. ‘Duncan’ in particular has beautiful leaves, so I shall keep my fingers crossed. It will be all the more disappointing if these fail, given the added cost as compared to sowing my own.

Oh, and if you are wondering why I created such a tall cage for such tiny plants, the netting is too wide really, so this way there is less excess to deal with, and in theory the sprouting broccoli will grow taller. In practice I don’t seem to be having much success with brassicas, so who knows…

Duncan Leaves

The calabrese went in under a fleece cloche with the perpetual spinach. It seemed like a good idea at the time, the fleece will keep the birds, butterflies etc out and the spinach should have more tender leaves with the added protection. I’ll have to watch out for weeds and slugs though. I ran out of time and energy before I got as far as sowing my early broad beans, so that will have to wait for another day. I was slightly cheered by the lush health of the various lettuces I am growing.

Lollo Rosso

The Lollo Rosso in particular is growing really well still, and is very tasty. At least it proves I am not totally incable of sowing seeds direct and having them flourish. I just appear to have a few issues with green manure…

32 thoughts on “Of partially rescued failures

  1. Is that a chrysanthemum in the lettuces?

    We grew green manure once – it just made the plot look overgrown with weeds and was a reall pain to dig in – it was a grassy type so maybe we need to try something else one year

    1. My reasoning was that digging it in should be easier than digging it out, but I have to do the digging it out bit too now :-( The orange flower is a toppled-over marigold clinging on to life.

  2. I mentioned my success and failure with green manures in a recent post. In the past timing and broadcast sowing was an issue. Leave some of green manure too long and they become too difficult to dig in… some of our clover was wonderful until I let the hens free range anf the rye was very patchy. So I’m resorting to spreading old compost…

    Buying plugs isn’t cheating! You do what you can do. Janet, don’t be so hard on yourself!

    The allotment looks great and good luck with the brassicas!

    1. Thanks Janet – and I am sure you are right, both about the “cheating” and the broadcast sowing. If I do try again with the rye grass I shall sow in drills…

      1. I think drills are a good idea but when it comes to the bit I am to lazy by this time in the season and resort to my usual haphazard sowing method, which appears to be poor to bother with…

  3. Ah well Janet never mind, cant win them all. As for plug plants cheating, never! Too many of us are getting the idea if we don’t grow everything from seed and perhaps spend more than five pounds per week on plants etc we are somehow not real gardeners. I wonder if similar attitude is given regarding flat pack furniture for our homes. Am I just justifying my own short comings these days? There was a time when I had two greenhouses filled with seedlings we grew on ourselves.

    1. Maybe we should all be making our own furniture from trees we have grown ourselves?! I think plug plants are great, for edibles or ornamentals, in fact one of my allotment books recommends using plug plants for certain things because it cuts down on labour so much. I’m not sure why I felt guilty about mine, perhaps because I really enjoy sowing seeds and was cross with myself from having missed the boat? Plus I am trying to do it all on a tight budget.

      1. Off to the hardware store. Your right though, finances do play a big part in what we do. Never sure whether or not I use this replyme thing appropriately, wish it were universal though and not just for wordpress users. alistair

  4. Hi Janet,

    Some things just don’t seem to like us; it’s the way of life I believe! lol. No matter how many times I try for Ox-eye daisy or teasle it just never happens. I also tried red clover one time and well, I don’t have any! lol.

    As for the plugs, I don’t think it’s cheating at all. Life gets in the way sometimes and we can’t always do all the jobs we need to do. As you say it’s still much cheaper than buying from the supermarket anyway.

    1. I got a self-seeded ox-eye daisy this year, much to my delight. What makes me cross is that I really should have noticed that it wasn’t red clover coming up, and weeded thoroughly earlier! Ah well, am going to try field beans. Maybe. And worry about brassicas not liking me!

  5. We sometimes think that it’s Humans that control the plants, but other times it seems as if it is the other way round! They grow whenever (if) they feel like it. I hope your brassica cage keeps foxes out too. I have my brassicas netted for that reason.

    1. Hi Mark, I think if the foxes ran at the cage they would breach the defences alarmingly easily, so I will just have to hope that (a) no foxes and/or (b) foxes put off by sight of netting…

  6. Hi Janet,
    I sowed Phaecelia as my green manure – I just broadcast it freely then ruffled up the soil over it – it worked a treat adding lovely colour as well. When the first batch was going to seed I cut it down and left it on the soil rather than digging it in – after all its the nitrogren you want, and the cut down plants now act as a mulch and will then hopefully rot away over winter. I will definitely use it again.

    1. Hi Elaine, I really like Phaecilia, and was going to give it a go but was sowing rather late, and wanted nitrogeon-fixing too. I did have some in amongst the raspberries, and the bees loved it! Pretty in a vase too, which rye grass wouldn’t be. Maybe next year.

  7. In my neck of the woods hardly anyone seems to grow veggies from anything other than plugs, from the ubiquitous sixpacks that every nursery stocks. It good you’ve found a source that gives you the plants you want. Here’ it’s settling for whatever happens to be unbought and reasonably healthy-looking. Definitely not cheating. In my Mediterranean climate the season ahead is actually the main event, so the practice of using green manures doesn’t work so well for us, though the idea makes perfect sense for you–Now if only your seeds would cooperate…

    1. Interesting! When I was first getting indoctrinated into growing edibles, when we lived on Anglesey, I remember lots of plug plants being brought back from a large wholesaler. Loads of choice and really good value. Our local garden centres have bought in to the whole “grow your own” craze but only seem to supply plants during the main growing season, and as you say, the choice is very limited. I think that’s why I love growing from seed, there is so much choice. I think I am going to have to sow the remaining rye grass seed in drills and talk fiercely too it…

  8. what a shane about your green manure. The first year I grew Rye grass I created shallow drills and had perfect lines of grass. It took so easily I decided it wasn’t really necessary to be so process about planting so anytime since I’ve just gone for a biblical broadcasting of green manure seeds. Granted it can be patchy when your packet starts running out and you’ve still got a whole section to do but I can put up with that for the effort it saves.
    All the best with your field beans – I’m sure they’ll be successful.

    1. I’d happily settle for patchy! Will try the neat rows approach, and keep my fingers crossed. It is such a good idea, I will be cross if I can’t master it!

  9. I’ve never tried green manure before, as I have a relatively cheap local supply of chicken manure for the plot. I think buying plug plants is a great idea and I sometimes do if I’ve forgotten to sow something or have a gap to fill. Better having an area in production rather than bare. Hope they do well for you.

    1. Thanks Damo, I agree, I hate the space I have to be unused if I can grow something there, and given how exposed the site is I liked the idea of protecting the soil from erosion through the long wet winter (hark at my optimism…)

  10. I am rather of the opinion that green manures are good on a large scale (a field) but not so useful in a garden or on an allotment. I’ve only heard bad stories about the difficolty of digging them in or out. I’m going down the manure root. Re plug plants, everybody uses them here; granted they are cheaper than in the UK but I’ve seen the old guys buy trays and trays of the same thing so they’re growing on quite a large scale. I think they’re great as you don’t have to be heating a tray or greenhouse, just buy them when you need them. i will be trying some things from seeds just because with the greenhouse I feel I should but often financially I’m not convinced seeds are cheaper for the plants that you want less than 8 of, seeds aren’t always viable in later years and anyway one always sows more then feels guilty about throwing seedlings away. A quandry! Christina

    1. Hi Christina, I think you could be right about the scale issue, and several people have commented about the difficulty of digging in. I figured that given I still have plenty of couch grass to contend with, that I might as well give it a go. One more attempt, then I will barrow manure over at least the beds that I will be growing beans and squashes in. I agree there is an issue about seed viability and seeds per packet. I am hoping to catch the local bee keeper, he told me about a place he gets seed from that specialises in just supplying it in small quantities, so less wasteful. I think I am too seduced by the sheer variety available when you grow from seed, but I can see myself using plug plants more next year as I won’t really be able to use a cold frame much with the house being on the market, takes up too much room on the patio.

  11. Maybe the red clover seeds needed some netting too … I’ve given up on outdoor sown seeds. When I read your title I thought this post was going to be about using mown grass as a mulch. Do you know if this is practised ?

    1. I have sudden visions of a flock of pigeons snacking on my clover seeds and sniggering to themselves… I know people use mown grass to mulch things like raspberries and strawberries. Others use nettles, but there aren’t many near my plot – though the guy behind me is having a go at changing that by neglecting to do anything with his area…

  12. I keep thinking I should plant a green manure and almost thought I would do it this year, but I waited too long. As usual. But too late also arrived earlier than usual.

  13. I love your honesty and sense of humor! So what if you used plug plants?! You know you will have healthy, thriving crops. At least you’re gardening and not buying everything full-grown from a retailer. Good luck with your autumn crops!

    1. I think a sense of humour is a vital survival skill for a gardener!! And thank you, you are right, I could have just given up on spring cabbage altogether…

  14. My green manure has been quite hit and miss too. I sowed Phaecelia in September and this has provided a lovely amount of foliage cover. I then sowed sow rye grass at the start of October but it was so dry that it has germinated very patchily which isn’t much good for weed suppression and protecting the soil. I then sowed an Autumn green manure mix 2 weeks ago which is germinating now but I don’t know how well it’ll do. I really think the dry weather impacted on germination. It’s such a shame you can’t sow Phaecelia later in the year because it did so well.

    1. I agree about phaecelia, lovely plant and seems to germinate really easily too. I’ll be interested to see how your autumn mix does, I’ve still not bought anything to replace the absent clover. Am feeling a bit cheesed off about the whole thing if I’m honest, but I think that is just because I am over tired, despite the extra hour in bed at the weekend. Ah well, good to know I am not the only one with less than perfect green manure, though at least you got some to germinate! Did you broadcast sow and rake in or sow in drills?

  15. Well you did better than me Janet as I never even got round to sowing my green manure crops :( I have ordered stuff from Delfland before and have been delighted with their plants and service. Brassicas seem more of a challenge than other crops but I have decided to try growing some ‘Romanesco’ next year. Your lottie seems to be lapping up the autumn sunshine and looks great.

    1. Hi Anna, thank you, you always cheer me up! I tried ‘Romanesco’ this year but it went to seed, I think because it was so dry and I hadn’t really caught on to how much watering was needed. But I grew it before when we were on Anglesey and it was fabulous! So beautiful, and so very tasty, so good luck!

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