Sunday, 22 July 2007

How do YOU use Animal MANURES?

After watching ‘Gardening Australia’ I’m again incensed at the fact they use animal manure direct onto planted garden beds.
The amounts they use is over the top & unsustainable.Certified Organic/Biodynamic farmers do not follow such pratices. The other week they where putting copious amounts on citrus trees.

I cringe with the dilution & corruption of real organic methods.

My citrus are grown with little water & even less compost. The quality & quantity is more than you can wish for.

With this in mind I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on using animal manures.

Using raw manure on my garden makes me organic Wrong! All animal manures regardless of age must be properly composted with other materials before adding to soil. When raw manure is used it harms the soil microbes and the worms and causes imbalances in the soil. Sure! you get the lush quick green growth, just the same as adding urea or soluble Nitrogen. Animal manures have the potential to contain dangerous organisms such as E.coli; another important reason for composting all manures. Studies have shown that applying fresh manure over a number of years has no increase, or even decreasing humus content in the soil, whereas applying composted manures results in a slow but steady increase of humus and organic matter. Same goes for liquid animal manures (an old time favourite of gardeners) where manure, mainly poultry/ pigeon, is steeped in water and then used directly on plants. This is the same as dissolving urea and using it. All liquid types of fertiliser need to be limited to the capacity of the humus in the soil to absorb, otherwise it is leached into the water table. One of the main aims of organic agriculture is to feed the plants via the humus in the soil. Plants feed through very complex mechanisms. Humus, trace elements, bacteria, fungi, algae all plays a part. To feed nutrients through water soluble fertilisers or foliar sprays can cause the plant to take up too many nutrients, to grow lush and sappy and be more vulnerable to pest and disease attacks.
Guidelines for correct manure use:
· Collect manure as fresh as possible from an uncontaminated site.
· Store manure, covered, out of the rain until needed for compost.
· Compost aerobically with other materials. The best way to add the manure to the compost is to make thick slurry by adding a little water to a large container and mixing until smooth. This can then be poured over the layers as you build the heap.
· Compost is ready when it becomes an even, dark brown/ black, humus rich, hygienic, living substance with a pleasant soil like smell.

Gardeners often ask how much quality compost is needed. According to Maria Thun in her book ‘Results from the Biodynamic Sowing & Planting Calendar’
“By taking a flat filled wheelbarrow containing 40kg & adding 2 x 10 litre buckets full we have 50kg- enough for an area of 50 square metres. This amount applied every second year manures the soil very well.”

A wheelbarrow used to measure the amount of compost.

Of course there is compost & there is COMPOST but that’s another story. Stay tuned


Maggie said...

You have raised an important issue here .What do we put into our soil and what effect does it have on our plants?.
I hope people comment on this topic.
The only obvious thing I know about gardening is that plants like rain water.

Kath said...

Thanks for this advice Deb. I have worried about this very practice since I started my little plot. It's so normal to want to get 'fast' results when starting out - waiting to produce good compost first can seem agonisingly slow to a beginner but I will encourage everyone I know at the garden to do so.

gardengal said...

Thanks Debbie,

I'm afraid I'm guilty of putting raw manure on my beds this winter because we don't have our compost bays made yet.

Since you seem to be a bit of a citrus expert, can you tell me if you know of anyone growing curacao in Australia?