Sources of Manure Fertilizer to Enrich Garden Soil
Sources of Manure Fertilizer
Bulky farmyard manures are dug in during the winter or are used as mulches in summer. Some are rich in plant foods while others have little immediate food value, but all add to the’s humus content and improve its condition.
In fact, any bulky organic waste is useful as a garden manure, provided it does not contain harmful industrial chemicals and provided it rots down reasonably quickly.
Bulky organic manures need to be used in large quantities. A good dressing would be a 15cm (6in) layer, or about a 10 litre (two gallon) bucket of manure per sq m/yd.
Farmyard/Stable Manure Fertilizer
Farmyard / stable manure which includes the animals’ straw bedding, is one of the finest forms of organic manure.
The ammonia content of fresh farmyard manure may damage plants, so it is usually best to use it after it has been stacked for a while and has partly decomposed. Stacking in the open means that the soluble nutrients are washed out by rain, and so well-rotted farmyard manure fertilizer is low in plant nutrients. But it does provide the necessary humus, and soil rich in humus is usually very fertile.
Horse manure fertilizer is ‘hot’ — that is, it ferments rapidly — and for this reason was at one time widely used to form hot-beds for raising early food crops. Nowadays, electric soil-warming cables are more likely to be used instead. It is one of the richest and driest manures, but often that sold by riding stables contains mainly urine-soaked straw and a few droppings. It decays rapidly into a disappointingly small heap.
Pig manure fertilizer is slow to ferment and, when fresh, tends to be caustic and to burn the roots of young plants. It is best composted with straw and left for at least three months before use.
Cattle manure fertilizer containing straw from the yards is wetter and lower in nutrients than horse manure, but it decomposes slowly into the soil, and is ideal for sandy soils.
Deep Litter Poultry Manure
Deep litter poultry manure fertilizer may be bought by the load from poultry farmers. This partly rotted litter is usually dry and dusty and must be composted before use.
It takes some weeks for the wood shavings or straw on which the manure is based to break down. During this time the heap may develop an offensive smell so it should be placed as far away as possible from houses.
When composted with soil, deep litter poultry manure is rich in nitrogen but deficient in potash and phosphates.
Spent Mushroom Compost
Spent mushroom compost may be available from mushroom nurseries. Mushrooms are grown commercially on a compost based mainly on horse manure. When all the mushrooms have been harvested the compost is sold — either in bulk or in pre-packed bags.
This is a good garden manure or mulch, containing humus and plant foods. It also contains chalk, which makes it less suitable for soils that are already alkaline, though it won’t do much harm unless applied every year.
Spent hops sold direct by brew-eries help to improve the physical condition of the soil, but they are low in plant nutrients. This can be remedied by using them in conjunction with a general fertilizer.
Alternatively, buy treated hop waste which has had nutrients added to it from a fertilizer supplier. This is excellent manure, but expensive to use as a soil conditioner in large quantities.
Sewage sludge, processed by some local authorities, is a well-balanced manure. Despite its unpleasant origin, this material is generally inoffensive to handle. Inquire at the Engineer’s Department of your council offices to check availability.
Seaweed is rich in plant foods, especially nitrogen and potash, and breaks down quickly into humus. Stack seaweed for a month or two to allow rain to wash out most of the salt, then dig it in at the rate of about 5.5kg per sq m (121b per sq yd).
Leaf-mould may be made by corn-posting any fallen leaves, though oak and beech leaves are the most satisfactory if somewhat acid. Do not use conifer needles.
Pile up alternate layers of leaves and soil, each about 5cm (2in) deep. A sprinkling of general fertilizer on each layer of leaves will assist decomposition. Do not make the heap more than 1m (3ft) high. Turn it at two or three-month intervals.
The compost will be ready in about a year. Apply at the rate of 2.5-3kg per sq m (5-61b per sq yd).
Coir fibre compost, made from coconut fibre, actually holds more air and moisture than peat. Nutrients are added to give it a pH of 6.5, making it equivalent to sedge peat in acidity and use.
Composted bark is a by-product of the softwood timber industry, and can also be used in much the same way as peat to improve the condition of the soil. Bark products do, however, tend to trap nitrogen from the soil, so it is best to use composted bark for mulching and coir compost forand cuttings.
Green Manure Fertilizer
Green manure crops are grown for the sole purpose of turning them into the soil to provide humus and plant nutrients. They are particularly valuable on heavy clay and light sandy soils. The overall effect is equivalent to digging in compost or manure, but the soil cannot be used while the cover crop is growing and, ideally, for several months after it has been dug in. Plants used forinclude clover, comfrey, fenugreek, lucerne, lupins, mustard, rape and rye-grass.
Wool shoddy is a waste product from the woollen industry. It is now uneconomic to use at any distance from the factories due to transport costs. Shoddy is rich in nitrogen, which is released slowly over three years. Without first decomposing it, dig it in at about 1/2kg per sq m (1 lb per sq yd).