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Horse Manure compost or not?

Posted: Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:09 pm
by Christian
I have been preparing my new plot by digging it two spades deep. The next step, I guess is to put a layer of fertilizer and compost on it. I live in an area with lots of stables so I have easy access to horse manure. My question is if I can put the un-composted manure on the ground and leave it over winter? Or should I compost it first in a bin or a compost heap and put it on the soil in spring? Does anyone have experience with this?
Thanks
Christian

Posted: Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:30 pm
by gumbo2176
If it were my plot, I'd first place a layer of cardboard and/or newspaper over the entire area, then add the stable material. I'm assuming it is like they do in the States with wood shavings, hay and manure coming out of the stalls. Then along with the stall material add leaves and as much green material----grass clippings, shrub trimmings, veg. matter and mix it all up and let it sit there over winter to compost itself.

If you can't plant a garden until March or April, that would be 5-6 months for this to decompose and help amend your sandy soil.

Air is important in the decomposition process. If you bury material from horse stalls, it will take longer to break down.

I'm sure others will be along shortly to add to this post from their own experiences.

Posted: Wed Oct 06, 2010 12:35 pm
by farmerlon
That's good advice from "gumbo".
If the manure has already been sitting there for a long time (a year or more), it should already be "composted", and you can work that into the soil right away.

If the material is "fresher", I would compost it first, or use it as top dessing, instead of incorporating it into the soil now.

Posted: Wed Oct 06, 2010 4:14 pm
by Christian
Thanks for the advise, really helpful. One other thing, the pH of the soil is 5.5, I guess I need to add some lime. Should I put this on the soil with the rest of the stuff or better in spring?

Posted: Wed Oct 06, 2010 4:24 pm
by jal_ut
FWIW
My method is to add manure, leaves, and any other organic matter I may have around, then till it all in, in the fall, along with the remains of garden plants. By spring most of it is decomposed. The exception is parts of corn stalks. This method has been called "Sheet Composting".

I think sheet composting may be a better option than putting all your organic material in a compost heap. I just seems to me that a lot of goodies get leached out of a compost heap and end up fertilizing the area under and around the compost heap, but don't do that much good for the garden. Move your heap over and plant a squash or pumpkin where the heap was to see if I am right.

I also prefer to mulch rather than put organic matter in a heap, for the same reason. At least as the mulch breaks down the goodies are on the garden.

Ya, I am basically lazy. I want to get the best results for the least effort. Making, turning and moving a heap just ain't in my best interest. I will put the organic matter on the garden in the first place. No more moving it, and as it breaks down all the goodies are on the garden.

Fresh manure can be put on in the fall and by spring it will be OK. I would never put fresh manure on in the spring or summer. Best to compost it first for use in the spring or summer.

I don't know how large your area is, but be careful not to put too much manure on it. A little is good. Too much can ruin your plot for a season. If you could lay down a uniform layer, one half inch deep is enough. Of course manure never goes on in a uniform layer, but you get the idea?

In the spring I don't till at all for the early plantings, then later till only an inch deep to disrupt the little weeds before planting the warm weather crops. Spring tilling is not good here because the soil is so wet and has enough clay in it that it will make clods that won't work out for months.

Posted: Thu Oct 07, 2010 12:04 am
by farmerlon
Christian wrote:Thanks for the advise, really helpful. One other thing, the pH of the soil is 5.5, I guess I need to add some lime. Should I put this on the soil with the rest of the stuff or better in spring?
You could start the Liming of the soil right away, as it usually takes a few months for the pH to fully adjust.
You can also add some Lime to the compost pile, that will "sweeten" the pile and make it decompose a little faster.

Posted: Fri Oct 08, 2010 1:51 pm
by jennsim
Hi Christian,

To answer your question about "un-composted manure" I have
placed dry ones straight from the horse paddocks and the vegies
were very bountiful that year, but there were many oat seeds and
unknown sprouts coming up in the veg patch also. So you may
want to compost first.

jenn

Posted: Fri Oct 08, 2010 8:52 pm
by gixxerific
I have always done just like Jal said. Manure leaves, grass and everything else. Give it good mix and all is normally well (this year was not one of those).

I have many times, maybe most of time so far. Added the most composted horse manure I could every fall and early spring. I have never noticed a problem with that myself. Sometimes I would not get the good old stuff but than again never a problem.

I also never composted it just put it down and went with it.

I also remember if putting down the more fresh manure it is best to mix it in immediately or you loose nitrogen? to the air. (Check me on that)

Posted: Fri Oct 08, 2010 10:41 pm
by DoubleDogFarm
I applied about 4 1/2 yards of horse manure to the north half of my garden in the Fall of 2009. It wintered over on the surface and was tilled in, this spring. It may have gassed off or leached away some of the nutrients, but it grew some good produce.

[img]https://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h300/eric_wa/DSC01588-1.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h300/eric_wa/DSC01597-1.jpg[/img]

I would also like to note, I grew mostly above ground produce in these beds. Tomatoes, squash, strawberries, tomatillos, lettuce and asian greens and potatoes. With potatoes and other root crops, you are taking a chance, with fresh manures. It may cause scab and hairy root crops.

Eric

Posted: Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:37 pm
by jal_ut
With potatoes and other root crops, you are taking a chance, with fresh manures. It may cause scab and hairy root crops.
Scab on potatoes is caused by the soil ph being too high. We have plenty of problem here with our alkaline soils. The soils are mostly from eroded limestone, with plenty of calcite in it. It is pretty hard to change the ph of these soils as anything acid you put on it is quickly neutralized by the lime in the soil. Well, bright side, we don't need to lime our soils. :P

Posted: Sun Oct 10, 2010 4:30 pm
by jal_ut
I applied about 4 1/2 yards of horse manure to the north half of my garden in the Fall of 2009.
When you say this I have to wonder if your manure was mixed with bedding, and what kind of bedding? I know lots of people use sawdust or wood shavings in their stalls and the resultant manure pile is mostly wood. Sometimes straw is used for bedding. I think the straw may be better on the garden than the sawdust.

In any case, manure along with other added organic matter is an excellent soil builder. Yes, it has been used in commercial potato production with good results.

There is a point though where too much manure can make a plot too hot and nothing will grow well there. I have seen that on several occasions. One neighbor who thought he was doing his plot a favor really pile on the manure. Nothing would grow. It was too hot. The man lost one years production.

The term "HOT" may be misleading, but is what the farmers here call the situation. What actually happens is the disolved components in the water in the soil gets denser than the solultion in the cells, so instead of the plants taking up water, the opposite is true and the water moves from the plant tissues to the soil. It is a natural thing for the solutions to try to be balanced. In most cases seed cannot even germinate under these conditions. Bagged fertilizers like ammonium nitrate can also easily be overdone, and especially in containers. Fertilizer is good, but be careful and wise in its use. Organic matter and manure are probably the best fertilizers.

I have also observed a corn field that had too much manure put on it. The corn did germinate, but looked sickly all summer. A light green color and many days it wilted for want of water. It only grew about half the usual height for field corn. The yield was way down. In this case a little would have been good, but too much caused problems and actually reduced production. The next year the farmer did not put manure on the field and the crop did well. It took one season to fix the problem.

Manures are good because they contain organic matter and also ammonia which is high in fixed nitrogen.

Posted: Sun Oct 10, 2010 7:30 pm
by DoubleDogFarm
Scab on potatoes is caused by the soil ph being too high.

Jal, I'll make a note of that. Our soils run more on the acidic side.

The horse manure looked like it had, hay/straw and shavings/saw dust. I probably over did it, so I won't be adding anymore to the northside, this fall.

Trying to keep the beds in production at all times, I will be add smaller amounts of compost on as mulch.

Eric

Posted: Sun Oct 10, 2010 10:25 pm
by jal_ut
Trying to keep the beds in production at all times, I will be add smaller amounts of compost on as mulch.
I don't think you can over do mulch with things like grass, straw, hay, or leaves. It will all eventually be reduced by the bio community and it doesn't seem to ever make the soil too hot. It doesn't have the ammonia and urine that are in manure.

If the area you put that big load of manure on did well this season, I would say you did good and now know how much you can put on without a problem. I would not hesitate to put some more on this fall. A yard will cover 320 sq ft an inch deep. That is about right for manure mixed with bedding. I would not put it on any heavier.

Posted: Mon Oct 11, 2010 12:42 am
by Alan in Vermont
Something I ran into with fresh horse manure was a little different than what jal describes but just as serious in the short term.

I applied a 2-3" layer of manure, which was primarily pine shaving bedding, over about a half acre plot in the fall. Plowed it under immediately and disced it in the spring, then planted it to sweet corn.

Crop came up and had a good start then slowed growth and was turning yellow. Same thing happened on another plot where I had spread manure for another gardener. He suggested we were dealing with a low ph condition.

I did some research and found that the problem was nitrogen depletion. The wood shavings had tied up so much N from the soil that there was none available for the plants. Liberal sidedressing with ammonium sulphate got things growing but it was too late to get any sort of viable crop.

Posted: Mon Oct 11, 2010 1:49 am
by DoubleDogFarm
alan,
I did some research and found that the problem was nitrogen depletion. The wood shavings had tied up so much N from the soil that there was none available for the plants. Liberal sidedressing with ammonium sulphate got things growing but it was too late to get any sort of viable crop.
I may have had a little of that. Pale looking plants early in the spring. I started a fish and kelp regiment, once a month, through August. My duck pond water may have helped a little also.

Eric

Posted: Mon Oct 11, 2010 8:26 pm
by tedln
Yep, horse manure and pine shavings really slowed my early garden this year. I had to keep adding nitrogen rich mulches and composts all summer to offset the nitrogen depletion from the wood shavings. It has finally rotted away and I should be okay next spring. On well, lesson learned.

Ted

Posted: Mon Oct 11, 2010 9:42 pm
by gixxerific
You all are worrying me now.

I just added approx. 2 - 2 1/2 yards of horse manure plus shavings, hay whatever to a little over half of my bigger garden (probably 2 -3 inches deep or more. Some of it was very well composted (years old) while other parts were more fresh.

I have been adding grass like mad all year so maybe that will outweigh the high carbon of the shavings. I just added a ton of grass today after mixing in my manure. I have been doing this for years but not in such quantities so i hope I'm good for next year. I know that possibly a part of this years problems could have been from adding too much compost.

But all in all even if next year is a bust the following will be great because it is finally getting to where I want it.

Posted: Mon Oct 11, 2010 9:51 pm
by tedln
gixxerific wrote:You all are worrying me now.

I just added approx. 2 - 2 1/2 yards of horse manure plus shavings, hay whatever to a little over half of my bigger garden (probably 2 -3 inches deep or more. Some of it was very well composted (years old) while other parts were more fresh.

I have been adding grass like mad all year so maybe that will outweigh the high carbon of the shavings. I just added a ton of grass today after mixing in my manure. I have been doing this for years but not in such quantities so i hope I'm good for next year. I know that possibly a part of this years problems could have been from adding too much compost.

But all in all even if next year is a bust the following will be great because it is finally getting to where I want it.
Gixx,

I wouldn't worry about it. If it is well composted, it should be fine. I bought a dump truck load of the stuff last year and the guy told me it had composted for more than a year. The pile I was looking at was well composted. I think when he delivered it, he didn't get it from the well composted pile. I could see some pretty fresh looking saw dust and shavings in the pile when he delivered it. I used about 1/2 of the pile. The remaining pile is now well composted and usable. On my pile, some kind of mold grows on the surface and sends the mycelium or filaments deep into the pile. It causes the wood particles to decompose rapidly.

Ted