2 Ways to Transition from Greencrop to Crop

Phacelia and buckwheat - the prettiest of all greencrops

Greencrop’s are your soils secret weapon.

How I love them, for the nourishing respite they bring – they’re an important regroup for your soil. A greencrop is the only crop we grow where the whole thing is returned. When we harvest our dinner, we’re in effect stealing from the soil – greencrops are our chance to say thanks, to give back.

They nurture + build soil biology, reduce the amount of compost needed and as a final farewell, add organic matter (OM). OM is your pathway to humus rich, strong, water retentive, awesome vegies growing soils!

Chop greencrops down just as they start flowering and you’ve got yourself a load of nitrogen rich mulch to cover the soil in prep for the following crop.

Here are my 2 preferred ways to go about transitioning from greencrop to crop.

Clear the whole bed: for dry soils + direct sown seed

lupin is down

Do this if your soil has become parched, or if you plan on seeding your next crop.

If you only want to use a portion of the bed, just clear off as much as you need and let the rest carry on until you need it. Yes, ideally we chop them as they gear up to flower, but don’t be too hung up on this. Leaving them to go full cycle also has benefits – one of which is collecting your own seed.

Slice the crop off at soil level with sharp secteurs or a scythe and pile the slashed down crop beside the bed as you go. Leave the roots in! Biology is attached and operating in the root zone, don’t go ripping them out. And if lupin is your greencrop – a burst of nitrogen hits the soil when its cut down.  

Water if needed, then spread a fine layer of compost, sow the seed and spread the cut down greencrop back on top. Right away, so you don’t leave the soil exposed.

You’ve grown your own mulch! How cool is that. All that organic matter will melt into the soil surprisingly quickly, feeding up the microbes, in turn boosting your plants.

Plant amongst the greencrop: for seedlings

broccoli planted into a crimson clover phacelia greencrop
Broccoli seedling growing amongst a phacelia, crimson clover greencrop

Do this if you are planting seedlings or if the weather is extreme – too hot, too wet, too cold. Seedlings speed along, in this protected environment and because they can plug into existing below ground networks around the greencrop roots.

Cut back just enough greencrop to create a pocket that fits your seedling, giving it enough light and air. Add a good dollop of compost, then plant.

  • If you are on sandy soils, scope out a divet before composting.
  • If you are on heavy soils, pop your compost on top like a little mound.
  • If its hot and sunny, leave some greencrop shoots to act as umbrellas.
  • If its cool and damp, trim back to create more light and airflow

Sprinkle the chopped bits on as mulch around the seedling. Continue to chop and drop the greencrop as the new crop grows and needs more space + light.

The perfect environment for new seedlings.


  1. Sadly I have never managed to sprout a lupin yet. The odd oat yes. Mustard definitely, along with phacelia .. but never a lupin. I’m wondering is it birds/ mice …. or just me doing it wrong.

    • wow – how interesting! perhaps rodents? old seed? burying the seed too deep? Heres how – Prepare the bed (weed etc) then scatter sow the seed then chop it into the topsoil with a rake. Dont worry if bits of seed are still showing. Turn the rake over and use the flat end to firm the soil and get good soil contact for the seed. Lightly cover with mulch and cover with bird net – fool proof 🙂 Lupin is such a feisty thing. Good luck, Kath

  2. Hi Kath, Do you just leave the lupin roots in the ground to rot away on their own accord?

    • Yes Noelene! thats the one. All that nitrogen released from the nodules on the roots when the tops are cut – makes sense to leave them in dont you think. As well as all those wonderful airways + biology attached to the roots and a wonderful addition of carbon the to soils. So much goodness in those roots 🙂

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