If you want your garden to grow bigger and better vegetables, having good soil is the best place to start. But that doesn't mean you have to spend a lot of money or apply stinky fertilizer!
At the Cornercopia, the University of Minnesota Organic Student Farm, they have to methods of using "green manure" that home gardeners can do to!
The first is plating rows of white clover between your vegetable rows. Clover is a legume that takes nitrogen from the air and stores it in it's roots and leaves. By periodically mowing (with a regular push mower or even a weed whip) your soil gets a feeding of nitrogen that fertilizes your veggies! Plus having rows of the clover is great for minimizing a muddy mess when you're pulling weeds or harvesting the produce.
For a deep feeding, swap the location of your vegetable and clover rows by tilling the clover into the soil and simply switching their spots.
In addition to the clover, buckwheat is a great tool for the home gardener to use. Anytime you have bare soil buckwheat is a great option to take it's space. That can be done after you've pulled out spring crops like lettuce, radishes and peas. and because it grows so fast, you can even fit in a crop of buckwheat when you begin to pull plants in late summer.
Buckwheat matures in about 40 days. But even if you only have 4 weeks to allow it to grow, the benefits are still there. Plant it, let it grow, and then pull it or mow it before it sets seed. Let the pulled or mowed buckwheat sit on the soil and dry for a few days before turning it or tilling it into the soil. It's an excellent amendment to improve the growing conditions for future plants. Plus it really is a pretty plant. Bees love the flowers. One more benefit... it is great at shading out other weeds that might start to creep in.
Have questions about how to use clover or buckwheat in your garden? The organic program at the University of Minnesota is having a field day on September 21st on the St. Paul campus! It's free and open to the public!