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Gary350
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Planting a whole garden in BAGS of cow Manure ?

Has anyone planted a garden in $1 bags of Cow Manure from Lowe's or Home Depot?

About 10 years ago there was an artical online about planting a whole garden in bags of fertilizer. Cut 2" circles in the top side of the plastic bag and plant the seeds in the holes. I remember the photos bags with about 6 rows of holes with about 8 holes per row. Denver half longs in each hole, Lettuce in each hole. About 10 melon vines coming from a bag. 2 tomato plants per bag. Beans and squash growing in the bags.

The plastic bag acts sorta like a mini raised bed. I am thinking if this really works it might be the best way for me to plant an Arizona garden.

Has anyone tried this?

estorms
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I haven't tried it, but there is no reason it shouldn't work. You will have to keep it watered. Planting tomatoes in large pots works and this shouldn't be much different

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I've heard of planing in bags of compost and potting soil, but not manure.

I have tried planting in a bag. It works, but it works better if the bag is laid flat on the ground.

I tried to put potting mix in a 3 cu ft bag and stand it up. It was hard to keep it from sagging down. The tomato was not too happy either.

It was worth trying though, but I don't think I'll try that again.
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jal_ut
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I think of manure as a soil amendment not a growing medium in and of itself. Whether this will work will depend on if, and how well, the manure was composted before being bagged. You are not out much but a few seeds and some time if you want to try it. If you do please report.
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jal_ut
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Gary, tell us about your situation there in AZ. Do you have a lot at all or in an apartment? What?

Seems that if you have any turf at all you should be able to have a garden if you can muster some water. Even if the lot is desert sand, that mixed with some of that manure you mention, will grow plants, given water.
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Gary350
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jal_ut wrote:I think of manure as a soil amendment not a growing medium in and of itself. Whether this will work will depend on if, and how well, the manure was composted before being bagged. You are not out much but a few seeds and some time if you want to try it. If you do please report.
The manure from Lowe's is composed and it looks like ground up wood pieces. It has no manure smell.

The manure from Home Depot is composed to it looks like saw dust and has a very strong manure smell.

I'm not sure which manure is best so I will try a few bags of each. I think manure along will be lacking something? It probably needs something like fertilizer, maybe lime, maybe sulfur?

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Ozark Lady
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Have you grown in a bag before?

I tried it one year, not manure, just top soil.

I only made a hole in it big enough to stick a plant in. I had them level too.

I kept having problems keeping it moist enough.

If I poked holes in the bag to allow rain in, it also allowed evaporation.

If I didn't poke holes, I had to water through the transplant hole, which washed soil away from the roots.

Then I tried removing a strip on top... It still dried out faster than I could water it. I was watering twice a day, just to keep the plants alive.

I won't do bag gardening again, even a container worked better for me!

I planted similar plants, just in the soil, even my rocky soil, with once daily watering I got a lot better results.

I wish you well, but my attempts at it failed miserably, just not enough volume of dirt to hold up to my summer heat, and it was mulched etc.
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jal_ut
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I think manure along will be lacking something? It probably needs something like fertilizer, maybe lime, maybe sulfur?
Real top soil is made up of clay, silt, and sand mostly. These are materials that come from the erosion of the rocks the Earth's crust is made of. These materials are rich in trace minerals that the plants need. They also make a good medium to hold water and to anchor the roots. These are the materials that are missing from manure.

The two things, that the plants need, most often lacking in soils are nitrogen and water. Manure is high in nitrogen, hence it makes a very good fertilizer, however as a growing medium it is too hot and as noted, lacking in minerals.

Anyone wanting to make a successful veggie garden would be well served to take a good look at this site aboutRoot Development This will give you a good understanding of what the plants' needs are.
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>>The manure from Lowe's is composed and it looks like ground up wood pieces. It has no manure smell.
>>The manure from Home Depot is composed to it looks like saw dust and has a very strong manure smell.

time to step back and do a double check.
what does it list in fine print on the bag(s)?

"the pure poop" is usually labelled "Dehydrated Cow Manure" around here - altho I'm sure the marketing department has many creative people with very strange ideas - and no, "Truth In Advertising" does _not_ apply.

"manure" is (typically) cow sh&t. as such and as mentioned it's great to add to the soil, but growing in "straight 100% manure" may not work out well.

growing in bags is a pretty "old" technique - but I've only heard of it in soil less mix bags or perhaps soil+compost+sand bags.

the problem with irrigation has been pointed out - (near) 24x7 drip irrigation works if the bags are buried in a mulch mound.

to be perfectly honest, "grow bags" are a solution in search of a problem. for the super specialized, super restricted situations where you got room but no dirt and dan't allowed to make a mess, it is an option. something like a 40th floor balcony comes to mind.....

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Not entirely clear to me that manure is mineral deficient. In fact, I've seen studies with poultry and steer manure that show that it is rich source of Cu, Zn, Bo, K, and Ca, as well as lots of N (though perhaps not in immediately useful forms). A lot of trace minerals are considered necessary for agricultural animal supplements, and these largely get passed with the rest. Also, organic material (compost, composted manure, etc.) holds moisture wonderfully and is very permeable, such that runoff is less of an issue.

It is possible that soil structure that includes sand, pebbles, and other mineral particulates is better for mechanically supporting root systems, in that it is heavier and the constituents can lock together better. That is, in a medium that is too "soft" and lightweight, a large plant could basically just tip over.

One thing to watch out for in a heavily manured plot is salt. In many parts of the country, bagged manure is pretty salty. The composting process tends to dry out the manure, and that just concentrates whatever salt was in it. But salt leaches out pretty readily in the course of a season. That's one advantage of using ground soil. Any leachable bad stuff has already been leached out of it. Another bad thing is ammonia, though well composted manure should have most of that removed.

So in my view, gardening in pure composted manure probably isn't a great idea, though you might be able to get away with it.

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jal_ut
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The manure from Lowe's is composed and it looks like ground up wood pieces. It has no manure smell.

The manure from Home Depot is composed to it looks like saw dust and has a very strong manure smell.
Manures vary considerably. Their contend will depend on what type of animal it came from and what the animals were fed, and how the manure was handled. Also bedding usually gets mixed with the manure, so that a lot of bedding may be in the manure too. Straw from grains and sawdust are both common bedding materials. A good portion of animal feed ends up in the manure. The animals can't use it all so it passes through.

Locally, the big feed yards are now winrowing their manure in big rows about 5 to 6 feet wide and 4 feet high. They have a road grader that rolls these rows over a few times in the composting process, then they are hauled onto the fields or offered for sale to whoever needs it. Some is bagged for sale in garden centers.

The dairy farmers now have made pits and every thing gets scraped or washed into the pit. These are large underground pits. When the time is right to get the manure onto the fields they pump it into what we joking call the "Honey Wagon" and spread it in the fields as liquid. Of course there is plenty of small chunks of organic matter in it.

Any way it has long been known that manure is a great soil amendment.
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Gary350
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I guess I'm just not using my brain. I need to use what I have learned in the past 40 years of gardening. Arizona is such a 3rd world country when it comes to gardening, I can not even buy a garden tiller in this State no one sells them. I was looking for a different and easy way to do my garden sorta like easy raised beds. Lumber is very limited in Arizona too I will have to order PT lumber to build raised beds and that is a lot of work and $$$. Planting in the ground is much easier. I can order a garden tiller $419 at Lowes.com 208 cc 6hp 26" wide yellow color it will come to the local Lowes store all I have to do is go pick it up. Arizona Coop Extension says, put 4" of compost material on the surface of the soil then till it in 4" deep. Add sulfur or some other product to lower 8.5 ph to 6.5 ph and add fertilizer high in nitrogen.

New tiller will be here March 4th.

Since no one sells LIME in the State of Arizona I have been saving egg shells for the tomato plants.
Last edited by Gary350 on Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:37 am, edited 3 times in total.

veggiedan
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That sounds like a very sensible plan. But your reluctance to using raised beds is perhaps not justified. Planting in a raised bed is just like planting in the ground like mother nature intended, but you've just put the ground level a few inches above where it used to be. Four inches of compost tilled a foot or so deep sounds great. Of course once you till four inches of compost into the soil, the bed will be raised whether or not you've got a rim around it.

Be a little careful adding fast release nitrogen, because that will encourage greenery and not fruits. Although I have been known to throw a bit of cheap lawn fertilizer on a new garden just to get the plants kick-started. By the time the plants are big enough to start producing, that fertilizer is largely washed away.

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Ozark Lady
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I am also dreaming of a tiller this year, not for the raised beds but for some row crops.

Used ones are pretty scarce here too. And I hate to shell out so much money!
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Gary -

the "desert southwest" can have some different challenges.

many areas have alkaline soil, possibly an overabundance of salts and other minerals, from being a "seabed" way back when. then of course, there's the sun, wind and absence of natural rainfall / moisture.

I recommend you get a soil test done so you have some idea of the basic conditions as they may be quite different that your prior experience.

the soils typically lack organic matter because . . . gosh, not a lot of green stuff around....

the seasons are slightly different as well - growing stuff through the middle of summer is very challenging - you'll likely get better results on the front and tail end of the major heat.

digging in organic matter will help enormously - that'll be an ongoing thing.
and deep mulch to prevent drying and keep the soil from overheating is another big advantage.

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jal_ut
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Awesome! You are off to a good start.
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veggiedan
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That's an important point about the desert southwest as having different challenges. I gardened a lot in Oregon and California, and then moved to Texas. Talk about gardening culture shock! Here we have two gardening seasons, and July and August aren't really a good part of either. When a seed packet calls for "full sun", we kind of laugh at that. Soil moisture is a continual concern during the peak of the summer, and it's going to be a lot worse in Arizona because of the rock-bottom humidity. As noted, getting a lot of organic matter in your soil is going to be the best defense against parched plants.

By all means get your soil tested, but also get a dialog going with local gardeners. They've figured out the tricks.

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Veggiedan, you can add Northwest Arkansas to that climate.

We have before July gardens and after July gardens...

It is a trick,, and lots of shade to get even heat loving plants through July and August.

Full sun here means: dead plants... no garden at all!

Dappled sun means good growing...
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Gary350 wrote:The manure from Lowe's is composed and it looks like ground up wood pieces. It has no manure smell.

The manure from Home Depot is composed to it looks like saw dust and has a very strong manure smell.
Are you buying the $1.09/bag and $0.99/bag stuff? I bought 30 bags from Home Depot a few weeks ago (Earth-Gro brand, IIRC) and 8 bags from Lowe's yesterday (forgot the brand). Both came in white bags with yellow trim and are described as "steer manure mix, composted, screened, and weed free." Both seemed very similar to me, and both stink up my garden and my car equally well. Or equally poorly, depending on your point of view.
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TheWaterbug
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Ozark Lady wrote:I am also dreaming of a tiller this year, not for the raised beds but for some row crops.

Used ones are pretty scarce here too. And I hate to shell out so much money!
I made the big leap and bought a used tiller last year for $500, and I've been _really_ happy with my decision, despite it needing a carbuerator rebuild and a new starter clutch.

Now that I don't have to plan days in advance in order to use it, I use it all the time, sometimes only for a 10 minute job.

The tiller + my broadfork are improving my formerly-rock-hard soil immensely.
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sepeters
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Hey Gary350! Did you check at Whitfill's Nursery for a tiller? :)

Also, I think the roots of the plants would absolutely cook in those bags in our summer here! I have trouble with the potted plants oustide. The raised bed does better, but dries out quickly as well. If you have the ground space I'd plant in the dirt. But get out there to till soon or you'll get a sunburn! 8)

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Lime is an ingredient in mortar for laying bricks. It is usually sold at mason supply houses and lumber yards.
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TheWaterbug
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jal_ut wrote:Lime is an ingredient in mortar for laying bricks. It is usually sold at mason supply houses and lumber yards.
I bought a bunch at The Home Depot also. I don't remember how much I paid, but it was very inexpensive. I remember thinking that I could afford a lot more than I could carry. It's really dense.
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erins327
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I have bought the $1 bags of cow manure, and the $1 bags of top soil, mixed them together, and made rows out of them. Mixed in with my native clay ground, it worked very well last year and am planning on doing it again.

I compost, but with two of us we have limits how much is ready at any given time, and we have about 300 sq feet of garden right now (and want to grow more!)

Granted I have never done the 'plant in the bag' method, but I can vouch for the $1 compost. :)

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