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A load of...manure!                                              February 2010  


A load of...manure!

horseAnyone who has any interest in gardens knows that it is a good idea to add manure to the soil. However, with the dictionary describing manure as the faeces of animals, it is not surprising that many of us turn to the easy-to-buy and pleasant-to-use bags of chemical fertiliser instead.

But after a long lecture from a close friend, I have seen the light and will never buy chemical fertiliser again. I now know that manure is the best and most natural way to help grow healthy plants; it helps add great taste to vegetables, and it helps regenerate and condition the soil.

Using manure on your garden is only doing what nature does anyway. In wilder areas, plants grow by absorbing nutrients and minerals from the soil. When they die, material is returned to the soil where it mixes with natural animal waste to help feed the next generation of plants.

Manure is packed solid with a wide range of good things including nitrogen, phosphorous and potash, all essential elements to help grow and maintain healthy plants. Manure also helps to improve the structure of the soil as it contains plant material as well as animal waste. This can help the soil to hold and retain more moisture and also help stronger root growth for plants.

It is a subject that initially some people shy away from, but once you begin to learn more about manure, it is really interesting. Not all manure is the same because the diet of animals varies so much, especially between grazers and meat eaters. Most of the manure used in gardens comes from horses and cows that are vegetarian, but again the benefits from the different manures of these two common species are varied. Cows have a very effective digestive system which eliminates seeds, and their manure is less weedy than say the manure from horses which often contains undigested seeds.

Manure is easy to use and surprisingly pleasant to deal with. Horse manure is one of the easiest to obtain from local stables and it is usually mixed with straw or hay, making it dry and easy to handle. Cow manure is also easy to obtain, especially in spring when cows are turned to the fields from the winter yards, but this manure can be quite wet.

Pig manure is also obtainable and has a very high nutrient content but is even wetter than cow manure, so needs to be handled with care. Sheep manure is not nearly so easy to obtain because it is deposited in such small quantities over such large areas. It is also not so good for conditioning the soil because it hasn’t been mixed with straw or hay.

The manure from chicken or turkey runs is exceptionally high in nitrogen. This is because poultry pass urine with their faeces and this can make the manure too strong to use neat. Mixing it with straw or hay though, and then composting it for a year, will turn it into an excellent manure.

There are lots of other manures that some gardeners rave about. Seabirds are meant to produce excellent manure, and there has been a lot of publicity recently about the excellent qualities of elephant manure, sometimes available from local zoos.

If you are using fresh manure, don’t place it directly around the plants as it's high nitrogen levels can burn the stems. It is best to compost fresh manure for a few months to allow the nitrogen to dissipate. You can also buy well-rotted manure. This does not smell apart from a small whiff of natural soil aroma.

Well-rotted manure should be spread and then forked into open beds in the spring, a few weeks before new planting. Generally, it should be spread at a depth of around 3cm and then forked in for a good mix with the existing soil.

For existing plants, apply it around the area and then water in really well to enable the nutrients to start feeding down to the roots. While spring is always a good time to add nutrients, manure can be added at any time during the year.

Adding good manure to your garden really can make a difference. Give it a try – you might be surprised how enthusiastic you become about a pile of old horse.....droppings!


Nutricentre Discount for laterlife visitors If in any doubt about any of the information covered in health and nutrition related articles and it's relevance for you, consult your GP.




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