The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Using fresh manure in the garden

Slug-nibbled pepper plant

"How did your peppers do with the half composted goat manure? Was it not too hot?" Becki Wilson asked, before going on to explain that she has access to fresh --- but not composted --- manure and wants to garden now.

First of all, I should say that the half-composted goat manure I was using tends to have the opposite problem. When the most volatile nitrogen has leached away and the majority of the organic matter hasn't yet broken down, what I tend to see is plants yellowing from lack of nitrogen rather than getting burned from too much. That was indeed the case for the first couple of weeks for our peppers, but they seem to be greening up and growing now (as long as the slugs will leave them alone!)

Cucumber flower

Answering Becki's question about her own garden is a bit more complicated. Different types of manure have different strengths --- chicken manure, for example, is very hot and I'd be leery of using it close to most living plants when fresh. Topdressing about a foot away from newly planted seedlings is generally okay, though, because by the time the roots grow out into the impacted soil, the manure has broken down enough to be helpful rather than harmful to their growth. But use more than you think you need with fresh manure because you will hit that low-nitrogen period in the middle and want your plants to have enough nutrition to survive the gap.

If you need more in-depth information on using manure in the garden, my Ultimate Guide to Soil contains a whole chapter on the topic. Good luck...and I hope your new garden grows fast and luxurious!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Are you confusing the yellowing of low N with the tan/brown of excess N? Because we moved last summer, I had no pile of
adequately mellowed horse manure for my seed starts this year. I used the oldest stuff I could scrape up while March temps were still low and the sprouts did very poorly with yellow edges on brown leaves. One of those crummy multi-testers showed the soil to be "Hi N."

Comment by doc Sun Jun 11 05:39:32 2017
Doc --- Good question! But no --- the low nitrogen symptoms are pretty clear when leaves overall are yellowish-green instead of bright green and the plants are slow to grow. Nitrogen burn from high nitrogen, as you mentioned, does tend to show up along the edges of leaves, and it tends to be actual dead leaf matter in my experience (which will look brown).
Comment by anna Sun Jun 11 14:19:57 2017

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