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  • Writer's pictureBridgette Macilwaine

Soil improving plants & green manure

Growing plants which positively contribute to improving the soil of your garden is a wonderful method to ensure your vegetables and plants have access to plenty of nutrients. While clearing, digging and bed prepping, today’s session was all about sharing plant knowledge – specifically buckwheat, comfrey and mountain spinach.

To ensure your vegetable patch has the best chance of thriving and producing vegetables, they require access to a range of nutrients, the best scenario for this, is good bed and soil preparation with nutrient rich compost. Good compost contains the ideal nutrients which are released slowly into the ground as plants need them. Green manure isa great method for this, created by leaving uprooted or sown crop plants to wither on your veggie bed, so they serve as a mulch and soil amendment.

One amazing benefit of working within a community team such as the WCFP is not just the range of people you could meet but the wealth of knowledge between all the volunteers, as many people have such interesting multicultural backgrounds. Its great to hear how gardening and vegetable growing has varying approaches across the world, as well as the information passed down from generations, from grandparents to parents and the now modern-day youngsters, it just takes the willingness to share and teach others, and the patience to allow people to be curious and ask questions


"Buckwheat is a great plant to deter pests, as the hoverfly larvae are ravenous predators of aphids and other insects"

Buckwheat - as seen in the images above

Not very well known as a useful plant by most and wouldn’t really know what they are looking at. One of the volunteers, Ieva is from Lithuania and she recognised this plant instantly, happy to share her knowledge with everyone.


  • A very important and fast-growing green manure plant

  • Great for attracting hoverflies, honeybees and other beneficial insects

  • It’s also been shown as a good plant to deter pests of vegetable crops, as the hoverfly larvae are ravenous predators of aphids and other small insects that might farm your vegetable crop

  • An easy plant to grow to control weeds as its fast growth quickly covers the ground in a green carpet

  • This plant is really good at improving the soil quality because of its ability to take up soil phosphorus and return it in a more plant-friendly form.

Buckwheat does not like wet, heavy soils, but does well in cool moist conditions, although its not frost tolerant, which does make the location of this community garden a good choice for this plant.

Comfrey - as seen in the images above

It has been said that Comfrey has been said to out-perform manure, compost and many liquid feeds for its high concentration of nutrients. These are produced from the deep root system which reaches as far down as the subsoil layers.

Six Benefits:

  • Contains high levels of all the essential nutrients for plant growth: Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK)

  • Attractive addition for wildflower gardens

  • Great for attracting bees and other pollinators

  • The leaves can be cut and left on the ground around plants or trees as mulch

  • Leaves can be left to wilt and then dug into the ground during bed preparation

  • Good to grow as future green manure and also control weed growth

Mountain spinach - shown in the images above

This attractive purple and green plant is also known as Orach, not instantly recognisable to most as an edible garden vegetable plant, but a great alternative to what most would know as "regular spinach"


  • Can be eaten either raw or cooked

  • It tolerates warm weather better than spinach, meaning it is less likely to bolt.

  • Great option for adding colours and nutrition to any salad bowl

  • Can tolerate saline and alkaline soils

  • Smaller seedlings from thinning the bed are delicious in raw salads


Thanks for reading, if you have any community gardening stories or experiences, we would love to hear from you!


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