Use manure and green manuring for garden health

July 29, 2015

Manuring is important for improving the quality of your soil, and green manuring is a simple way to increase the nutrient concentration in your garden. We'll help you choose the right manure and teach you the best green manuring plants and practices.

Use manure and green manuring for garden health

Select the right manure

  • Poultry manure is good to use in vegetable gardens because of its high nitrogen content, which helps when producing leafy crops.
  • Sheep, horse, and cow manure are other good soil additives and can also be used as a mulch or included in compost for digging in.
  • Whatever manure you choose, be sure to let it rot first. Fresh manure can damage a plant's root system. Rot it in a pile mixed with straw or grass clippings or add it to your compost heap. In the compost heap, the manure will help to generate heat and will hasten decomposition of the other organic matter.  

Learn about green manuring

Green manuring involves planting deep-rooted plants to break into the deeper layers of your soil and draw up vital minerals and nutrients. At their peak, these plants are plowed or dug back into the topsoil, where they decompose and provide added nutrients. Sow the plants so that they're ready to be plowed in when the weather is warm and moist, which will promote rapid and complete decomposition of stems and leaves. 

Seed for green-manure plants can be obtained from agricultural produce stores. Here are some options for green manuring plants:

  • Plants such as cowpeas, tickbeans, or lupins can be sown as green-manure crops. Let them grow to the flowering stage (perhaps allowing one picking of lupins) before rolling them flat, chopping them up, and digging them into the ground.
  • Comfrey can be used but the roots must be removed to prevent reshooting.
  • Other useful plants for green manuring include Algerian oats and ryecorn.

Consider the benefits of worm manure

  • Worms can be one of your garden's greatest assets. Wriggling through the soil, they facilitate aeration and produce nutrient-rich worm castings. The castings can be added to potting mixes or dug as a fertilizer directly into the soil around plants.
  • You can also use special worms to process kitchen scraps or other organic waste into compost. You can buy composting worms in bulk and use them in a covered compost container or as part of a commercial worm compost kit.
  • Composting worms will die if released into the open garden, whereas ordinary garden worms will live happily in a conventional compost heap but will process waste more slowly.

Whatever manure and technique you decide on, your garden will be healthier and happier for it.

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