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Muck, Muck, Glorious Muck

Manure Heap

2 tonnes of finest rotted sheep manure.

The chap across the road keeps Texel sheep and soon they’ll be lambing in the wee small hours in his shed. This means he has to clear the decks for action and this involved him getting rid of a load of sheep muck.

Now I suppose it is possible to have too much manure for the veg plot but I’ve yet to find a gardener who has managed it! So I played it cool, waiting at least half a second before falling to my knees and crying with joy when he asked if I wanted it.

Delivering Manure

Delivering Manure – Tractor backing into position prior to using the trailer’s hydraulic lift.

Well today a 2 tonne trailer full of sheep manure arrived, pulled by tractor. That’s a machine I’d love to have but hardly justifiable on 3 acres! I had it dropped in the field nearest to the veg plot. I’ve a month or two to move it onto the plot.

Loading it onto the trailer and dumping it will have, in effect, turned it which means the decomposition process will have speeded up. Manure is best used well rotted. I’ll keep an eye on it to see if it starts steaming. If it doesn’t warm up, that implies it’s already well rotted.

Then & Now

Back when I started growing, some 40 years ago now, the modern thinking was that the soil was just a mineral growing medium to hold the plant up. The plant was fed on artificial fertilisers like Growmore. The exceptions were old-fashioned, cheapskates and those long-haired, usually bearded, organic types.

Nowadays we know so much better. Even so, we don’t fully understand the complex ecology of the soil and how it affects plant growth and strength. What we do know is that organic matter is vital. Not only for the soil structure and it’s ability to hold water but for the micro-nutrients and microbiological flora and fauna.

Darwin showed how species compete with each other and evolve in 1859, now we are beginning to understand how species cooperate with each other to the benefit of all. Mycorrhizal fungi that aid plants in the uptake of nutrients being the most obvious example.

Just as we’re told to eat a selection of fruit and vegetables – five a day – to ensure we have all the vitamins and minerals for good health, a mix of things is good for the soil. What’s good for the soil is good for the plants. The more ingredients in the compost heap, the better it will balance those micro-nutrients.

With manures, there’s a lot of talk about which is best but the fact is that cow, horse, sheep all add value and using different types as and when available balances again. These articles may be of help and interest.

Farmyard & Animal Manures to Improve Soil Fertility

Farmyard & Animal Manures to Improve Soil Fertility

Animal manure add humus as well as nutrients to the soil to promote crop growth. Considers horse, cow, sheep, pig, goat, rabbit, rodent, cat and dog manures
NPK Nutritional Values of Animal Manures & Compost Etc

NPK Nutritional Values of Animal Manures & Compost Etc

Lists and compares the typical values of NPK in animal manure and composts which is useful for judging the amount of fertiliser to apply required for a crop
Posted in Allotment Garden Diary

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