How to Sow a Greencrop

Reader Contribution by Kath Irvine

Keeping the veggie patch fertile is an exercise in give and take – we give fertility, we get to take veggies. Give more than we take and our soil will keep churning out our dinner. The thing is, buying in fertility is costly and comes with too many plastic bags and bottles. My solution to keep the bills low and soil health high, is to recycle all your garden waste and regularly sow greencrops.

Closed Loop Gardening 

The more we return what we grow, the less we need to buy in. Close the loop by making compost or mulch with our garden waste or chop and drop older leaves and the bits we don’t use like tops from root crops, back onto the soil as mulch. These all go some way to compensating our soil for the carbs that we take for our table.

A greencrop is the only crop that goes all the way—100% of it is returned and recharges our hard working soils. A bag of seed + 10 minutes effort and winter fertility is secured—my kind of gardening!

An autumn sown greencrop nourishes and protects soil through the wet, cold season, provides overwintering for beneficial insects and chokes out weeds for the ultimate head start on spring plantings. 

To rest the garden over winter, pick a long term grain and legume combo like peas and oats or rye and vetch, or pave the way for winter brassica plantings in the best way possible with a quick turn-around lupin.

Get Ready to Sow

First up we must ready our ground. The main thing is there are no weeds about – ironing is not required. I hate to sound pious, but as long you’ve kept up with your little and often weeding, this only takes a few minutes. Sow your greencrop immediately after harvest so soil isn’t left bare and vulnerable.


Scatter sow the seed over top of the soil. Be generous—we want our greencrop to be a wild thicket.

Good soil contact makes a difference. Give it a reassuring pat with your hands or tamp it down with the flat end of your rake to connect it well with its new home. If your soil is dry then water it until it’s perfectly moist. 


A lovely layer of mulch is all you need now. Sprinkle it on top of the seed in a thickness that disappears the seed from sight, same as you’d do were you covering it with soil. Bear in mind if its freshly harvested like my home made mulch, it’ll shrink pretty smartly.

This beautiful mulch is buckwheat, yarrow, meadowsweet, parsley and dandelion, and took me all of five minutes to collect from my herbal border. Free, 100% organic and bursting with nutrients – the Queen of all mulches.

Birds don’t eat lupin seed so there’s no need to net if lupins are what you are sowing. If you’re sowing wheat or oats you’d be wise to.

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