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Planting in horse manure compost

The natural soil where we are trying to garden is heavy clay. Last year, we tried amending it with compost and planting into the ground, but it was almost a total failure. Because of the clay, we have very poor drainage, and it was very rainy last year. The clay plus all the rain meant that at one point, some of the plants were standing in an inch of water. So I'm thinking that's probably why last year's garden was so unsuccessful.

This year, we are trying to do raised beds so that we'll have enough drainage for a decent crop. I volunteer at a horse farm, so we have access to lots and lots of well-composted horse manure for free. So far, I have put about 6 inches of horse manure compost in most of the raised beds. Is this going to be adequate for growing my veggies? If not, what would you advise? I could mix the compost with the native soil, but as I said, our soil is really awful. It's a rental house situation, so we'll be there for another year, maybe two, so I'd rather not invest too much money in a solution.


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Yup, standing water is killer. Definitely need more drainage and raised beds will really help. Before you build your beds, be sure to use your garden fork to punch some holes down into the clay for drainage. Otherwise, it is a bit like building a raised bed in a bathtub.

But the horse manure compost, is likely very heavy and dense and moisture holding also. Great stuff for your garden, but really needs to be mixed with something. Not your clay soil. I would treat your raised beds like big containers and fill them with a mixture of the composted manure, peat moss or coconut coir, and perlite (or some substitute like coarse sand or rice hulls or bark mulch or ground pumice). You want some hard dry (maybe mineral) component in there, that will keep it loose and free draining. You could use 1/3 manure, 1/3 coir, 1/3 mineral or anywhere up to 1/2 well composted manure.

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