Addition of composted or aged manure is a great way to enrich vegetable gardens with organic material and ensure there are no bacteria or pathogens present.
Well-rotted manure should be added twice annually in the fall and spring for optimal soil nutrition. It provides both soluble and insoluble elements.
Manure can dramatically enhance vegetable garden soil in several ways: texture, structure and fertility are improved while organic matter levels increase and erosion/compaction issues are prevented. Gardeners can apply manure at any time during the year; fall is especially effective. As plants die back for the season and weeds have been pulled up from underfoot, aged manure provides an extra boost for tired vegetable garden soil.
Aged manure is generally safer than newly applied raw manure as its heat treatment has killed off harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi. When buying from local farmers it should clearly indicate whether their manure has undergone heat treatment.
Aged manure provides essential nutrients for next year’s crops in vegetable gardens, while fresh manure could contain pathogens which pose health risks to humans if it comes into direct contact with edible crops.
Animal manure may contain harmful pathogens like Listeria and Salmonella bacteria or viruses such as E coli 0157:H7 that could inflict illness or even lead to death when coming in contact with vegetables grown on manured soil. Young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immunity are particularly at risk, therefore it is advised that people avoid eating vegetables grown from such soil.
Vegetable gardeners can augment their soil with other organic material such as manure or other organic supplements like kelp meal, greensand, rock phosphate and bone meal for a balanced ecosystem. Applying such materials now ensures they will be available when their respective vegetable plants emerge next spring.
Fall is also the ideal time for conducting a soil test for your vegetable garden, in order to identify issues like low nutrient levels and pH imbalance that limit growth of vegetables. The results from such an examination can provide gardeners with invaluable information regarding which soil amendments they need to use this fall and next spring to correct any identified problems.
Even though it is too late in most regions to plant cover crops that will die over winter, you can still prepare your garden for next year by adding manure in autumn and tilling it into your vegetable patch during this season. Doing this also destroys pests and disease spores that overwinter in soil.
Organic matter like manure has the ability to enhance all aspects of soil: texture, structure and fertility. While adding manure won’t alter its components’ proportions as such – such as adding well-aged manure into sandy soil will help it absorb and hold onto water more easily – adding organic matter such as manure will still benefit your soil on all counts.
Aged manure provides valuable carbon, helping balance out nitrogen-heavy food scraps in a compost bin. For optimal results, aged manure should be added to your garden in late fall to allow time for its breakdown over winter before planting any spring and summer crops. Fresh manure applied during this season may burn seedling roots that are frost-sensitive.
Shredded leaves or straw is another effective method for amending the soil in your vegetable garden during the winter season, protecting soil while retaining moisture and keeping weeds at bay until spring arrives.
Chickweed and henbit can actually provide invaluable services for vegetable gardens by keeping soil covered, thus preventing more vigorous, more aggressive weeds from emerging and competing for nutrients; plus they’re easy to hoe or pull before they mature into competitors for your plants’ nutrients.
Some gardeners utilize an unconventional gardening technique called “hot beds” to harvest their winter harvest of vegetables. Though not for everyone, this approach allows gardeners to use heated beds without using electricity or other energy sources for heating. USDA planting zones 3-7 allow this form of gardening which uses layers of organic matter like hay straw leaves and manure placed over beds during winter to generate warmth for growth.
As your plants expand their roots continue to reach out into the soil and draw up essential nutrients, now is an opportune time to add well-aged manure to your garden soil. Manure should have undergone a composting process at temperatures reaching 145 F (a thermometer can help check this). This high heat level kills any pathogens present while breaking down organic material making it readily accessible for plant use.
Fresh or insufficiently composted animal manure can damage plant roots, prevent seed germination and introduce harmful pathogens into vegetable gardens. Therefore, aged, decomposed manure from herbivorous animals such as pelleted chicken manure is recommended when composting vegetable gardens – be that from cows, sheep, goats, rabbits or horses; age it for at least six months prior to use in your garden.
Aged manure is packed with humus, which contributes to improving soil structure while providing essential nutrients. Furthermore, its acidifying effects help lower pH levels that may inhibit plant growth in certain regions where high salt concentrations may inhibit it.
Well-rotted manure can be obtained either through neighbors who own farm animals, or purchased at garden centers. For best results in vegetable gardening, combine both organic material with some inorganic amendments like rock dust or ground chalk to achieve an ideal blend.
Manure should ideally be added to a vegetable garden in the fall so that its components can be broken down by winter rainfall, readying the soil for spring planting. Mulching with manure in late winter or early spring also helps ensure any potentially polluting nutrients don’t end up washing away into ground water, ditches or drains that could become pollution hazards.
If you lack the time or space to let your own manure age, try getting some from a neighbor who owns animals. Many will provide it in exchange for help cleaning out stables and barns; bagged versions may also be found at garden centers.
Manure can help vegetable gardens improve soil texture, structure and fertility while boosting plant health. According to University of Wisconsin-Madison Horticulture Extension Services, adding manure helps prevent disease by adding beneficial microorganisms into the soil while improving water-holding capacity and providing essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
Vegetables drain soil nutrients during their growth cycle, so replenishing them with fertilizers and organic material is necessary for their success. Knowing when and what type of manure to add can make all the difference when managing a garden; most vegetables need an ample supply of nitrogen; therefore it is wise to use either high-grade compost or well-rotted animal manure as your go-to fertilizer sources.
Aged animal manure is generally the best choice because it has been processed to remove pathogens that might contain E. coli bacteria. If using fresh manure instead, wait until next season when all bacteria has had sufficient time to breakdown into the soil and become fully integrated.
To ensure that manure is safe for use in your vegetable garden, it must first be “hot composted,” or heated above 145 F, in order to kill potentially harmful bacteria and organisms that could harm it. This process usually takes several months or a year and transforms raw manure into nutrient-rich humus that provides essential nutriments.
When adding manure to your garden, it is crucial that the organic matter is fully mixed into existing soil using either a rototiller or digging by hand. Furthermore, mulching with 3 to 6 inches of shredded leaves or well-rotted manure in fall will help suppress weeds, retain moisture levels and guard against winter erosion.
Add soil-enriching amendments like blood meal, bone meal and cottonseed meal to the garden in the fall as another solution; these will promote microorganism growth while making next spring’s plantings more nutrient-rich. It is wise to apply these soil enhancers at the same time each year, since their continued work to enrich your garden soil will ensure its continued health over time.