Do you recall that a few weeks ago you and I had a disagreement about the
use of fresh manure?
Well, since then, I've decided that I needed to do some research on the
topic of manure and the injunction that "thou shalt not use fresh manure as
it burns". As you know, David and I both reported that we'd used it very
fresh and had had no ill effects from it's burning but then I wrote that you
have to pick the place you use it. I can't recall what David wrote about
that. (Toxics and zoonoses weren't what I was interested in so I won't
address that at all).
After you and I disagreed, I wondered where this 'rule' on fresh manure came
from and why it came about.
I wondered if it was just an old husband's tale that has just been repeated
since the year dot and we all just now think that it does burn therefore we
don't use it fresh. I've got a very extensive gardening library and I've
scoured it from top to bottom reading to find out a reasoning behind this
"don't use fresh" injunction. It's astounding how silent the whole library
is on the whole subject.
I've found not one useful reference on the 'why' of it. I did find one cite
on usenet that may be useful and will give that below.
I did find some references in one book to the NPK levels of different fresh
vs (presumably aged) manures and thought you might be interested.
The book this info is from is called "Soil Food 1372 ways to add fertility
to your soil" by Jackie French (an Australian writer who I have come to
trust) but I note that the figures she gives are different to others in
other books I have for the (presumably aged) manure. But they differ all
over the net too, so I'm ignoring that.
NPK by weight (depending on quality of fodder)
cattle fresh 0.29, 0.17, 0.35
cow 0.6, 0.2, 0.5
hen fresh 2.1, .88, 1.85
hen 1.1, .8, .5
Horse fresh 0.5, 0.2, 0.13
horse 0.7, 0.3, 0.6
rabbit fresh 2.0, 0.62, 0.05
rabbit 2.4, 1.4, 0.6
Now, having seen those figures it seems to me (based on those figures) that
the aging process gives it more ooomph rather than less.
I came across this cite:
I have found the Rodale books are good ones so what it said made sense to
It says of fresh vs rotted/aged manure that:
i) in the composting process, manure can lose up to half it's moisture
content and thus concentrate nutrients
ii) nitrogen in composted manure is fixed whereas in fresh, it's soluble
iii) solubility of P and K is greater in composted manure
and on P.125 it says that 'when manure is added directly to the soil, it
generally releases highly soluble nitrates that behave similarly to chemical
fertilisers, as well as ammonia, which can burn plant roots and interfere
with seed germination.'
Now, having digested all that and much, much more, I'm left wondering very
vaguely and very mildly about the use aged manure or fresh. So, now it's
time for you to express your opinion, but first I'll set the scene.
I garden on land that was first cleared in the late 1960s. The natural
'soil' here is extremely poor (which is why it was never cleared for farming
since European settlement) - it's unimproved colour is a pale yellow. The
uncleared areas round here have the same type of trees that would have grown
here - stunted natives - no big forest trees, all small, sparsely growing
Eucalypts with limited understorey. My soil is clay like (no topsoil
profile at all) and has a lot of small stones (mainly quartz but with other
small stones that I can't classify). Neither my house garden or my vegetable
garden had any soil improvement done when the house garden was 'landscaped'.
I started my vegetable garden by cutting a roughly quarter acre chunk out of
rough pasture that was full of native grasses. My first veg bed was coffin
sized and it took me more than a week to dig that - use the pick to get
about 1 inch depressions, water, next day go back over it with the pick and
get another inch down and water again - the soil is (or was) water repellent
and there was not a worm to be seen. If I plant direct into the unimproved
soil, the plants sit there and either die or just cling to life.
I scavenge, gather and use in my garden anything that has once lived. This
includes leaves, grass clippings, kitchen scraps, dead chooks, old hay and
even my dead pets. I spread old manure, fresh manure (cattle, horse, chook
and sheep) and organic stuff like blood and bone and ash from my fire place
and I pound up the unburned carbon chunks and use that and also soot from my
chimney. I give my chooks my weeds and then add them to my compost after a
season. I try to make compost but can't turn it in a conventional heap (2
lots of major surgery in my mid 50s which has left me more feeble than I'd
choose to be) so I have 2 big upside down bins and 2 tumblers. I tend to
sheet compost more than anything and especially in Autumn/winter when I
spread as much manure as I can all over the place. We also encourage wild
birds as much as we can too given that they leave behind their fertiliser as
My garden would be about 3 acres I suppose but I've never bothered to
I measure my success by my worms and the colour of my soil. I've gone from
pale yellow and wormless in my veg garden to dark brown and worm ridden.
That applies in some of the rest of the garden too.
So, any views or known facts on the possibility of fresh vs old being an old
husband's tale? And what would you do in my situation?
3 acres? Good god, you're not a gardener. You're a farmer ;O)
That about 130,000 sq. ft. more than I'm dealing with. I presume that a
good portion is used to feed your animals as well. You must be familiar
with Polyface farms in this regard.
This may be redundant but, as your unlikely to be the only reader,
please bear with me.
From Michael Pollan's book "The Omnivore's Dilemma":
Though it was only the third week of June, the pasture beneath me had
already seen several rotational turns. Before being cut earlier in the
week for the hay that would feed the farm's animals through the winter,
it had been grazed twice by beef cattle, which after each day-long stay
had been succeeded by several hundred laying hens. They'd arrived
by Eggmobile, a ramshackle portable henhouse designed and built by
Salatin. Why chickens? "Because that's how it works in nature," Salatin
explained. "Birds follow and clean up after herbivores." And so during
their turn in the pasture, the hens had performed several ecological
services for the cattle as well as the grass: They'd picked the tasty
grubs and fly larvae out of the cowpats, in the process spreading the
manure and eliminating parasites. (This is what Joel has in mind when he
says the animals do the work around here; the hens are his "sanitation
crew," the reason his cattle have no need of chemical parasiticides.)
And while they were at it, nibbling on the short cattle-clipped grasses
they like best, the chickens applied a few thousand pounds of nitrogen
pasture-and produced several thousand uncommonly rich and tasty eggs.
After a few week's rest, the pasture will be grazed again, each steer
turning these lush grasses into beef at the rate of two or three pounds
By the end of the season Salatin's grasses will have been transformed by
his animals into some 40,000 pounds of beef, 30,000 pounds of pork,
10,000 broilers, 1,200 turkeys, 1,000 rabbits, and 35,000 dozen eggs.
This is an astounding cornucopia of food to draw from a hundred acres of
pasture, yet what is perhaps still more astonishing is the fact
that this pasture will be in no way diminished by the process-in fact,
it will be the better for it, lusher, more fertile, even springier
underfoot (this thanks to the increased earthworm traffic). Salatin's
audacious bet is that feeding ourselves from nature need not be a
zero-sum proposition, one in which if there is more for us at the end of
then there must be less for nature-less topsoil, less fertility, less
life. He's betting, in other words, on a very different proposition, one
that looks an awful lot like the proverbially unattainable free lunch.
Caveat: it's still early for me and I got cobwebs among the
little grey cells. That said, I'd think that the possibility of
spreading pathogens was the main cause for the injunction against
fresh manure in edible gardens. From what I've read about gardening
over leach lines, it appears the real problem comes from contact
of the fruit with the fresh manure (or effluent) in the ninety days
before harvest, whether that be direct contact, dust, or splatter
from watering or rain. Corn would seem to be impervious to contamination
and fruit from trees (the taller the better) seem to be out of harms way.
All, with the exception of the corn, should be washed before eating.
If there is a doubt about the bacterial contamination of the the fruits
or vegetables, serve a young red wine with the meal. The tannins in the
wine will incapacitate the micro-organisms long enough to prevent
infection. Since Cyrus the Great, armies have carried red wine to
war to prevent illness from drinking ground water (1 part wine/2 parts
water). Ground water used to kill more soldiers than combat. This ploy,
of course, won't work to protect from botulism because they produce a
toxin that remains, even if they are dead.
The only thing omitted, that might improve what you are doing to improve
your soils, is the use of cover crops, especially rye and buckwheat,
that can put a lot of organic material in the ground with out digging.
This is about the time of year (late winter, your time) that I sow the
"green manure" seed. Growing pulses on a fourth of your land on a
rotating bases would add to it's fertility.
I'm on the north side of a hill, on the edge of a temperate rain forest
(redwoods) and the original soil is heavy clay with stones up to the
size of a fist. Starting in 2000, I started a Herculean effort to
incorporate small pick-up loads of grape skins, sand, and manure to
improve the soil. This was two years after my by-pass procedure and I
wasn't real happy about having to load and unload the truck by shovel.
This effort improved the soil but, being in my mid-sixties, I didn't
look forward to continuing the effort.
Two years ago, my biggest improvement of the soil came with laying down
black and white news print to suppress weeds and then mulching over the
news print with alfalfa (although the down side seems to be raccoons
that damage the garden while sifting the mulch for grubs). The soil is
softer and has more life in it now. This year I went to clear plastic
sheeting (mulch) for my tomato and pepper patches and it seems to be an
improvement but will take a few more years of use for me to make a
The only other thoughts would be the addition of plants to attract
beneficial insects, and to try to grow in mixed beds as a lager
community of plants will attract more types of life to the end of them
being able to keep any one of them (a potential pest) from becoming
Thanks for the cite on "The Rodale Book of Composting: Easy Methods for
Every Gardener" by Grace Gershuny (Editor), Deborah L. Martin (Editor)
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
So let me just say, I hope I haven't insulted your intelligence,
I was casting my net as wide as possible. Just ignore the redundant
If I think of anything else, I'll post back to this thread.
All my best to Gundagai.
Nah. Himself is the farmer. I'm the gardener. And it may even be bigger
than 3 acres. My chook nighthouse/day run and orchard (all incorporated
together as one) would be about a quatrer of an acre.
Nah. Just the two legged, 2 armed animals (although in the orchard run the
chooks get anything that falls).
You must be familiar
??? Dunno that term. Wazzit mean?
:-)) A bit like a modified permaculture theory, but I go doolal if a cow
gets into my garden. The bastards eat things and break branches off things.
And as for the chooks! They stay in the orchard run to fertilise the trees
so I never have any problems with pests there except for Pear and cherry
tree slug, and the chooks can't get to up them.
It really IS a house yard/garden. Rose beds, shrub beds, borders (and an
area that used to be a pond (about 30 ft x 20 till it went dry here about 10
years ago and stayed that way - it will be again when I can afford a couple
of thou $s for pond liner).
Even in the garden proper, we have troubles with birds called choughs.
Gorgeous things about the size of a crow, pure black until they fly and then
they have a complete circle of white under their wings. They turn over
ALLLLLLL mulch unless it's covered with bird netting. And they do it only
with their beaks. Amazing to watch how far they can chuck the stuff over
their shoulders - makes mulching to keep in moisture (needed here all the
time) rather difficult. They do eat all curl grubs and anythign else they
can get their beaks to so I never have any problems with ground dwelling
pests - I came across a snail this morning and that owuld be the first and
only one I've seen in about 2 years.
Grrrrr. I'm pea green with envy. We have much much more than 100 acres to
produce what we do we have to stock very carefully. He must be describing
the sort of high rainfall country I can only dream of.
Agreed but that is why I spread it in Autumn/winter. By spring the worms
have done a lot of work and I then skim off the top of the beds and move it
around unless I'm using it for gross feeders like corn.
From what I've read about gardening
:-)) Sounds like you and I do similar things and in similar medical
conditions. I drive what you'd call a 'pickup' and I have that for dragging
home all sorts of great finds for my garden.
But those redwoods - do you know if they can be propogated from seed? Ive
found a stand of them and wondered how I might acquire a few for the
paddocks or our other farm where rainfall is much higher than here.
I'm establishing a new bed ATM doing a similar sort of thing - it's
trangular and about 30 ft on the longest side. Part of it has newspaper
with manure and lucerne (alfalfa) mulch. Part of it has an old coir floor
mat (about 15 ft x 10ft) with manure on top. It's still waiting for the
mulch on top. Part of it I've hand dug but that was too hard.
This year I went to clear plastic
You must be able to read my mind. I don't have any real bug problems but
I've bought a 'good bug mix' to encourage more good bugs. It has in it: red
clover, lucerne (aka alfalfa - not that I need any more patches of that in
my garden - it's come in from my mulches), cosmos, sweet alice, dill,
caraway, coriander (again rampant as is dill in my garden), buckwheat,
babysbreath, Queen Anne's Lace, marigolds.
Next time I'm near Gundagai (a favourite pee break spot when travelling)
I'll call into my favourite cafe (the Niagara) and have a coffee and cake on
I prefer Tumut though.
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