Manure Is Like A Fine Wine
by The English Lady
Hello folks, perhaps some of you may have heard me say, on my call-in program on WRCH Lite100.5FM,that “manure, like a fine wine, gets better with age.” It’s true. I cannot stress the importance of manure in your garden, especially throughout the winter when it works with the dormant nutrients in the soil to build soil structure and create a rich planting environment. Compost or manure is also the savior of water conservation. If you have organic matter in your soil you do not have to water as much, and with the drought situations we have experienced in the past and with efforts to be environmentally aware that is very much a plus.
Your soil is a good soil when it crumbles in your fingers, this soil is made out of sand, silt and clay particles held together by the gums and gels formed by bacteria, just like your hair style holds together with hair gel and mousse. Fungi, root hairs, and roots hold these aggregates together, and the insects together with our best friend the earthworm, build the spaces that air and water can trickle through. This is how healthy soil, full of organic matter, holds not only water but also the nutrients around plant roots, where they can be used most efficiently.
So dress your beds now with manure and in the spring top dress with about two inches more of compost or manure. Your plants will get such a well balanced diet with this organic material that they will not need fertilizer. High nitrogen fertilizer disadvantages, as it speeds the growth of plants making them weak and subject to fungus and disease; this fertilizer also disappears fast through to your water table so the plants have nothing to draw on. My company prefers to use organic composts, manures, and fertilizers when tending to the gardens.
Winter is a great time to build or buy a compost bin for your gardens and a great time to begin the composting process to carry on into the spring. The structure of any soil is helped by compost with the following additions of fish emulsion (kelp extract) and peat. Put this mix into a large bucket and add water then let it stand for a few days in the sun. You are saying to me okay Maureen but how do we make compost? I recommend a formula that is roughly twenty-five percent high nitrogen material such as early grass clippings, vegetable waste, or manure. Thirty percent lower nitrogen such as late grass clippings, weeds, and coffee or tea grounds, and forty five percent woody materials such as leaves and prunings.
To keep this material “on the boil” as I would say, your pile should be no more than three to four feet high, any higher than that and it will get too wet or too dry. If those microorganisms are doing their job the temperature will be 130 to 155 degrees and vegetable matter will turn into compost in about five weeks.
Always remember to plan ahead when you do any landscape work so it does not become a hodgepodge. If you are planning to get some professional help, and I do mean garden and landscape, then now is the time to contact a landscape designer so you can get on her/his calendar. Always think eco-consciously and avoid harmful toxins in your home and garden. We can always stay excited about our gardens even when it’s snowing outside. I’ll see you next time in your garden.