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About Manure. How Much, Where And When?

FRESH: You don’t always have to wait to use your muck. Some plants such as runner beans and squash will happily grow in planting holes or trenches enriched with a good helping of fresh muck. Add a minimum of a spadeful per plant. Cucumbers and melons will also grow excellently on simple ‘hot beds’ built with a layer of fresh muck topped with soil or well-rotted garden compost to plant into. Once they’ve died down comparatively fresh muck also can be stacked on top of rhubarb plants in autumn. It acts as a protective ‘hat’ for winter and they are going to grow up through the rotted remains in springtime.

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COMPOSTING: Composting manure has numerous benefits and some manures such as cow are only really suitable for use once composted. Remembering that it is faeces we are talking about here, manure can be a source of pathogens such as E, coli and parasites, and the composting process largely takes care of these. Hot composting also kills off many weed seeds which may be present, particularly in horse manure, due to their digestive processes. Rotting the manure helps it to release its nutrients better as fresh manure hold layer materials that can primarily despoil nitrogen from the soil as they  decay.

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Manure can be assembled into a pile that was layered and, much like average composting, turning up speeds and improves its decomposition. Making your stack for six months will bring about a much more friable, sweeter smelling soil improver, acceptable for virtually all your veg harvests bar root vegetables. You are able to leave manure to rot for up to a year and sometimes you may run into even more aged rich black stuff in stable yards and this intensely well -rotted things can be fantastic for asparagus beds. Each year, well-rotted manure should be applied at a minimum of one generous barrowful per 10 square metres and in a layer up to 7cm thick across the land where the soil is particularly poor.

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MULCHING: Fresh and well-rotted manure can be used when mulching and are excellent for retaining moisture. Never pile any manure up against the stems or trunks of plants as it may scorch them or cause rot. Fresh manure can be added around fruit trees and bushes in spring and autumn. Well-rotted manure is particularly useful around the container-grown fruit.  For weed suppression, nutrients and moisture mMulch around sweet peas, edible peas, brassicas, potatoes, and bean crops with well-rotted manure Treading down manure mulches lightly helps them to create a soil cap which is harder for weeds to find a foothold in as most blow-in seeds prefer a fine tilth.

WHAT TO DO: If you choose, manure can be a lot of work. The classic slant is to spread your muck across the ground in late autumn and then dig it in before planting in spring. This is a good idea for ground that is new to cultivation or particularly heavy or compacted. However, if your soil is well worked you can simply let the winter weather do its thing or just lightly fork in. Rotavating in manure counteracts some of the benefits as it kills worms and increases the chances of compaction. Alternatively, you can simply apply well-rotted manure at any point from spring onwards in a pseudo no-dig gardening way as a top dressing. It will act as a mulch and still benefit the plants very nicely.

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