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when does well rotted manure become soil? /soil improvement


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  • when does well rotted manure become soil? /soil improvement

    An obvious question perhaps!

    my brand new allotment site is very clay soil, so im going to try and dig in some organic matter when the beds are double digged to improve the soil in the hope i can get something to grow.

    We are having some well rotted manure dropped off at our plots for free, but ofcourse i cant dig that into all my beds (can anyone advise which veg beds i definately shouldnt do this for? i know carrots but am unsure on other fronts)

    through some connections i know of an old stables manure heap that hasnt been touched for probably 3 years now, and the last time i saw it looked like it had broken down to a really fine soil like texture. I think i could probably get a trailor full or two of the stuff for free.

    Do you think this manure is still highly fertile and thus inapropriate to use as a soil improve for carrots etc? Or by now has it been sat for so long that its mellowed alot and is ok to use without splitting my roots like theres no tomorrow?

    Also- does anyone have any suggestions of what else i can add to my beds to improve the soil -other than the obvious top soil, compost, leaf mould, sharp sand? should i be aiming to add in different mixes depending on what im planting such as more sand in the onion bed? I will be using a crop rotation but i want to give this years veg as best a head start as i can.

    i was wondering about grass cuttings (of which we have a large heap onsite) ash from my wood burning stove, veg peelings or shredded paper/cardboard, possibly even a small amount of saw dust. what do you think to any or all of the above?! should i mix them in evenly, lay in a layer beneath the top soil or...?!

    trying to do things as cheaply as i can as i have very little money and having made 8sqm of raised beds last summer i know how expensive it is to buy topsoil and compost on that scale!!!

  • #2
    I would be very tempted to cover your plot where the spuds and cabbage are going, in the muck and then rough dig it then later on when the conditions are right put a rotorvator over it and mix the muck and clay like that, thats my idea but I am on sandy soil the people on clay will be able to tell you better than me.


    • #3
      I would add sand to the areas that you are going to grow carrots, and mix it in a bit. Sieve if you have the will or inclination but it's not necessary.
      Add the well rotted manure to areas for spuds and/or cabbage/broccollis as PaulW says.
      Any non rotted kitchen stuff, dig a trench and add to the bottom for where you are going to grow peas and beans; cover with soil as you fill the trench or you'll get rodents.
      any other organic - add as you see fit. I add wood ash to my onion bed only; sawdust goes in anywhere and shredded paper/card goes straight into the compost bin, and cardboard goes on top of beds where I am leaving them fallow for a while to get rid of couchgrass/horseradish.


      • #4
        It's the long rooted crops that have the "forking tendency"(if you'll excuse my french),try stump rooted or ball type carrots,even if you have improved with manure ,keep an eye on 'em and eat the thinnings raw with salad.


        • #5
          thats brilliant, thanks guys!

          ive been planning to grow stump rooted carrots this year- paris market baron and early early market, so i may add a little manure to the carrot beds too.

          Only issue is my mom, who is hung up on the 'a carrot should look like a carrot' ethos and isnt keen on the ball shaped roots. Ive explained to her that any other type of carrot wont do well until we have better soil conditions and depth and 'normal' carrots'd end up looking just as stumpy- shes slowly coming round to the idea


          • #6

            Pile as much weed suppressant organic matter as you can get onto the soil surface!

            Let the worms do the digging, they'll change the structure of the soil and put the nutrients into the very top of the soil where it's easily accessible by plant roots.
            My Majesty made for him a garden anew in order
            to present to him vegetables and all beautiful flowers.- Offerings of Thutmose III to Amon-Ra (1500 BCE)

            Diversify & prosper


            • #7
              Pumpkins, squash, cougettes will take as much of the muck as you can give them pumpkins especially are very greedy feeders. Sweetcorn won't object to it either!

              The very well rotted manure pile will have a greater concentration of nutrients in the bottom of the heap, as it will have washed down in the rain. So if you use the first load (the top of the heap) in the carrot/parsnip area you should have less forking issues?

              As Snadger says, you don't need to dig it in in a lot of cases, especially in the parts you're covering over, you can just pile it thickly on the ground and the worms will take it in. Pumkins & squash, sweetcorn, potatoes and lots of others can be planted through holes cut in the plastic too, to save on digging & weeding

              I wouldn't put the very fresh manure on the onion bed - I've read that that can contribute to onion white rot, stick to the very well rotted muck for that bed to be on the safe side.


              • #8
                I use lots of 10 year old plus manure which is just like compost. It is not a great feed as most of the nutrients are lost but it is a fabulous conditioner.

                As legumes to a great extent self fertilise by fixing nitrogen from the air, putting grass and peelings in a trench is great as it holds water. Dont however, put them in normal beds as it will rob the soil of nitrogen as it breaks down.

                Digging in Ash and sand will open up the structure but I would avoid sieving it in, I have done that and ended up with a bed capped with a clay tile a foot thick. Vermiculite helps as does leafmould and everything else you have mentioned.

                Clay soil is probably the most fertile of soil types but also the most hated because of its structure.

                My philosophy is to feed the soil, not the plants and anything you can throw in it will repay you in spades.


                • #9
                  i would add everything everywhere, and grow carrots in a tub till next year, when all the soil is better, then you will not have to worry about carrot shaped carrots i have very clay soil full of bricks and rocks ...under my splattering of topsoil, and my carrots were all weird shapes, without the manure..... mine could do with as much more soil on top as i can get to grow proper carrots.


                  • #10
                    If you laid the carrot seed on it's side,would they grow sideways........................I'll get my coat


                    • #11
                      actually i managed to grow some sideways carrots in raised beds last summer

                      i watered them with miracle grow by accident about halfway through growing, it only went down a couple of inches into the soil and all the roots went u and l shaped to reach it

                      they were quite entertaining! but after a while they went back to more traditional directions of growth!

                      unfortunately ive moved away from the house with raised beds now, and where i live now has a tiny courtyard which is very very exposed and nothnig much likes to grow there. I still spend a small amount of time at the house with the raised beds and am dismantling the frames and bringing them down here in a week or so (link-a-board) to be put onto the allotment. Ive got some early sets in the beds at the moment and am considering sowing some carrots there, the only problem being i have no idea wether we will still own the house there in 6 months time or if it will be rented out.

                      Its really hard living in 2 places and slowly moving things across, particularly when the house ive moved from is 2 x the size of the one ive moved into.. and actually has a garden!


                      • #12
                        I managed to improve my sticky clay soil, but it took a very long time, and needed a lot of additional stuff added - it is now really good - so keep working at it as it is worthwhile. Clay is very fertile.

                        Meanwhile you could try improving different areas in different ways, and also see what grows on the unimproved clay - you might be surprised.

                        Lettuce etc like it rich and damp and slightly shady. So put your manure here - but under a layer of soil might be best. If it is really well broken down just dump it on the top and stir it in in some areas and not others - it can be educational to find out what works best for you, and may mean you don't need to work as hard as you thought you needed to everywhere on the plot. What do the other allotment holders advise from their experience?

                        I grew peas and beans for years on the dodgy clay soil, without rotation, with quite good success. Just adding my old grow bag soil from the tomatoes every year, and muching with grass cuttings before the soil dried out. Now it is wonderful stuff and supports all sorts of goodies.

                        The roughest clay seemed to appeal to broccoli and brussels and rhubarb, possibly because of the moisture content [and they need firm ground].

                        Also frost works very well in breaking up the soil and so rough digging will really help right now.

                        Don't dig after May - but try and get it loosened up by then - then pile up grass cutting etc on top to keep the soil open so it does not turn into concrete. Once it has you have a problem.

                        I could not get carrots or onions or raspberries to grow for nearly 20 years in my clay - I had given up. Then suddenly I had an utter blitz and dug in loads of organic stuff and produced much more compost, which really helped. I also fitted raised beds. The difference was pretty dramatic and I finally got good carrots last year [although the onions are still debatable].

                        I am going to try raspberries again this year, and am using this knowledge to help me. Presently I am making a new raised bed for them. All the big compost bin contents are going in there since the soil in this spot was still rock hard last summer so it still needs a good dilution of organic stuff. Once planted I will mulch heavily with the rotted manure I got last autumn and then pray hard. I do love raspberries...

                        Patience is going to be needed I'm afraid. Perhaps it might be easier to put off the veg that will not grow in manure for another year and stick on as much manure/compost/grass cuttings in now to get good results with what you can grow easily and try the harder stuff in a year or two [or grow them in buckets].

                        Just a few thoughts.



                        • #13
                          wow storming norman, the above is so much help!

                          unfortunately as the site is brand new we are all in the same boat! everyone is faced with a rectangle of rotovated clay and trying to work out where to start! seems like at the moment people are concentrating on edging their plots, pulling out the big stones and praying the hard frosts we've had this week carry on coming. The frost seems to be making a real difference!

                          some of the old guys on the site have some knowledge from growing in their gardens or other allotments in the area but as we live in a peculiar geological area the clay is quite a local issue (we live on a ridge) so only those with experience of growing in their gardens have knowledge for converting it into decent growing medium!

                          at the moment im looking into getting a load of 'soil improver' delivered if possible (difficult with no vehicle access). I think it would really help get some more organic matter into the ground without having to worry about ntirogen depletion. Has anyone got any experience of it?

                          On the plus side, i was wondering around the scrub between my cottage and the quarry opposite us today and found that people have been dumping leaves behind the brambles there. I shall be round there tomorrow with a shovel bagging it up! it looks like theres some really decent leaf mould in places which i can dig in and the rest can be put into my own leaf mould heap for future use!


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