Add Topsoil Or Mix Manure/Compost With Existing Soil?

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Hi,
I am terracing a slope on our yard. I am unsure whether to put in topsoil or just mix manure or compost into the existing soil. Wouldn't the latter allow a higher concentration of plant matter?
Also, I will need to temporarily move some plants while terracing. What is best to do with those plants until replanted?
Thanks, Gary
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On 8/3/10 4:27 PM, in article udSdndz96cwb58XRnZ2dnUVZ snipped-for-privacy@supernews.com, "Gary Brown"

First - create a holding bed for the plants you are moving.
The second - it depends. Are the plants/grass growing there now healthy and happen?
Honestly, I add compost, manure, shredded paper to every new planting area. (The shredded paper is to deal with the huge volume we happen to be creating dealing with old paperwork. )
Do you need volume or do you have enough soil to create the terrace
Cheryl
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My soil has virtually no organic content, so I add compost or manure to improve it. This is in addition to fertilizing. Chemical fertilizers do nothing to improve inorganic soil.
It is important to remember that compost often is relatively deficient in nitrogen. You may need to add nitrogen, perhaps by also adding the freshest manure you can find. The fresher it is, the more nitrogen it has.
What is your soil like?
    Una
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On Aug 3, 5:24pm, snipped-for-privacy@att.net (Una) wrote:

But don't you have to let that manure age a little before replanting the area? I have been told that really fresh manure will damage root systems.
Chris
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Depends what kind of manure and how pure. Poultry manure is higher in N than mammal manure. Manure with a large fraction of bedding is lower in N. Horse manure is lower N than dairy cow manure. Depends also on how much manure you apply, the N content of the existing soil, and how much N your plants require.
    Una
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Una wrote:

Una is right. For example I can put manure on to established plants hot from the horse (or nearly). Pure chicken manure if very fresh is too hard to spread thinly and water in to a level where it won't burn so mixing it in with other organic matter and maybe composting for a while before applying is a safer approach. Chicken litter (ie sawdust bedding and manure from chicken houses) can be applied directly if you spead it carefully and don't over do it.
David
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On Aug 3, 8:36pm, snipped-for-privacy@att.net (Una) wrote:

I used to keep chickens in the back. For years after that ended, the area was so fertile that plants would virtually LEAP out of the ground when I sowed seeds.
Manure with a large fraction of bedding is lower in N. Horse

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Gary Brown wrote:

It depends on the existing composition of your soil. If it is well balanced and you just want to increase the volume add a good loam. If it is not balanced add whatever is missing in greater amounts.

It depends on what the plants are. The treatment (and whether it is sensible to even try it) will vary with size and type.
Who is doing this work? How has the drainage been handled?
David
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Gary Brown wrote:

It's not a question of "either or", compost and manure will continue to compost until all that's left in less than two years is dust... on a slope a few good rains and it will be gone... if soil is needed use top soil and with amendments if needed depending on the quality of the topsoil.
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To the extent this is true, it is true also for topsoil. Your point?
    Una
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On Tue, 3 Aug 2010 19:18:10 -0600 (MDT), snipped-for-privacy@att.net (Una) wrote:

Top soil does not continue to decay at anywhere near the rate of compost.
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snipped-for-privacy@att.net (Una) wrote:

The organic fraction does. The inorganic fraction also settles and is even more subject to erosion than the organic fraction.
    Una
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We live on a drumlin, which is a hill that was stripped bare by the last ice age. The soil is poor and rocky.
How much manure should I add per cubic foot of soil? We have cow manure available commercially here. How deep?

Me, with a pick-axe and shovel. We have a supply of sand. Would adding some of that help?
Thanks, Gary
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On 8/5/10 1:17 AM, in article juOdnfieaJO61cfRnZ2dnUVZ snipped-for-privacy@supernews.com, "Gary Brown"

Ah - some one who knows the proper terms!

Honestly - I'd be doing close to 50-50 your soil to manure. Not knowing where you are, look around to have some one deliver enough in one aromatic load; local farmers, stable owners, alpacas (currently in style here) and such.
I have friends that tell wonderful tales of having 4 yards of horse manure delivered....

I'll assume you've done your homework.

Only if you have clay in your soil or there is some in what ever soil you might end up bringing in. Great for drainage...
Cheryl
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Cheryl, there still seem to be too many loose ends here, including the composition of the soil. What kind of plants are we talking about, woody perennials, or soft annuals? While, in my hubris, I don't always agree with Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D., Extension Horticulturist and Associate Professor, Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State University, I still think it is instructive to consider her opinions. <http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/~Linda%20Chalker-Scott/Horticultural%20Myths _files/Myths/Amendments%204.pdf> Of particular concern is the production and leaching of nutrients produced from a formidable amount of decomposing organic material. Whether the nitrates come from Monsanto, or my pretty pony, too much will damage the soil environment.
If you use manure to soil in a ratio of 1 to 1, with perennial plants, how do you avoid the bed from sinking when the organic material decomposes back to CO2 and H2O? With annuals it could be replaced during the winter or early spring, at the cost of money, and a lot of labor.
In my opinion, the OP would be better off to adjust his soil to the profile of loam, add 5% - 10% organic material, and then plant rye or buckwheat around perennials, or plant them in a program of crop rotation with annuals. The rye and the buckwheat would insert the necessary organic material into the soil by virtue of their prodigious root production. Nitrogen could be applied at the surface by "green manure", or animal manure which could be mulched over.
I strongly suggest that the OP check out at least one of the following books from their library in order to understand what they are trying to accomplish.
Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis (Amazon.com product link shortened) /ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid06815176&sr=1-1
and/or
Gaia's Garden, Second Edition: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture (Paperback) by Toby Hemenway (Amazon.com product link shortened) 580298/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid71266976&sr=1-1
--
- Billy
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the
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A drumlin is a pile of boulders, cobbles, gravels, and coarse sand deposited by a glacier. A hill stripped bare by a glacier is a roche moutonnée.

Ask the question: how much manure per SQUARE foot of area you want to improve. Talk to your county ag extension agent or soil conservation office. Ask for the name of the kind of soil you have there now. Likely the soil conservation agency has a good soils map. Ask about soil amendments, and if you should add clay or try to adjust the pH.
What vegetation do you want to grow there? Crevice plants like small quantities of very rich soil. Manure mixed with a small fraction of coarse sand and of humus will suit them.
    Una
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You sound as if you are describing conditions in New England, if so, and the plants are to be ornamental, I'd go with the purchased topsoil in order to avoid the rocks and the acidity of the soil. If this is to be a vegetable garden, your largest harvest will be of rocks. Not impossible, but it will take patience.
--
- Billy
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On 8/5/10 12:40 PM, in article snipped-for-privacy@c-61-68-245-199.per.connect.net.au, "Billy"

Actually, 20 plus years later of gardening, I'm still harvesting rocks in the existing beds... LOL
Thank heavens for buying in composted manures....
C
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Gary Brown wrote:

Do you intend to cut down into this or will the terrace be only built up?

You need to organise your terrace and its retaining wall so that heavy rain is not going to cause a problem. The higher the wall the stronger it must be and the more risk there is of water behind it being a problem. You need to ensure that any surface water runs to a place where it can be dealt with (not, for example, into the garage as an acquaintance did) and the wall needs weep holes so that it doesn't become a dam because then the hydrostatic water pressure may push it over.
David
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Is this to be a decorative garden, vegetable garden, or a blend of the two?
What kind of plants need to be moved?
I suppose you could buy "organic" top soil, otherwise you are taking the chance of ending up with someone else's problem (think heavy metals). So I'm recommending you blend your own. Ideally garden soil should be 30% - 40% sand, 30% - 40% silt, and 20% - 30% clay. Final organic content of the soil should be between 5% - 10%. More isn't better, because you will be generating excessive nutrients, and the land will settle more as the organic content is converted back to CO2 and water.
If mixing manure and compost, try for a ratio of 25/1 for carbon/nitrogen.
You may want to look at the discussion on manure at <Http://www.plantea.com/manuer.htm
How common manures measure up Manure Chicken Diary cow Horse Steer Rabbit Sheep N 1.1 .257 .70 .70 2.4 .70 P .80 .15 .30 .30 1.4 .30 K .50 .25 .60 .40 .60 .90
How common manures measure up Manure Alfalfa Fish Emulsion N 3 5 P 1 1 K 2 1
Sources: Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, An Illustrated Guide to Organic Gardening, by Sunset Publishing, and the Rodale Guide to Composting.
Note: Nutrient values of manures vary greatly, depending on the diet and age of the animals, and the nature and quantiy of bedding in the mix.
If you decide to do "terra preta", use 5% - 9% charcoal with other organic material to a max. of 15% (organic material + charcoal).
--
- Billy
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