manure in new heather bed

deeee(northern calif)September 28, 2005

I am planning a big heather bed....replacing my south facing, gently sloping, horrible weedy lawn in heavy soil with a gorgeous new heather garden. I have about 50 various heathers in gallon pots I bought at a wonderful little heather nursery (Glen-Mar Heathers) here in Humboldt county, northern coast of California, heathers do great here. I bought the plants about a year ago, re-potted and have taken really good care of them.

My question is: I was told not to use manure in the heather beds, why, i'm not sure. I have scoured all the heather websites, and they never mention NOT using manure, but they don't say TO use it. As mentioned, I have very poor soil (we bought this place about 2 years ago). I have prepared many garden beds in the past by the "sheet composting" or "lasagne" gardening method, letting manure, compost and worms do the work for me. Why not for heathers? I live near a horse stable where I can get all the manure I could possibly is mixed with straw, hay, sawdust. With that, and leaves,etc, I figured I could make some decent soil.

My plan is to prepare the soil over the fall and probably buy some topsoil to make mounds, add some landscape rocks,etc then next spring i'll install a drip watering system and plant.

I know heathers don't like a rich soil, but I'm starting with horrible soil, and with the manure, etc, it will better, but not "great" soil.

does this sound reasonable?

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Heathers like a LEAN (read: low fertility!) soil. At best, in rich soil, they will grow leggy and ugly and probably will not flower.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2005 at 10:33PM
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I'm not sure I'd be quite so absolute on avoiding improved soils. As in deee's area, heathers are commonplace here and grow exceedingly well and most are planted in amended garden soils with moderate to high fertility. They thrive and bloom profusely. Legginess is typically avoided by proper placement with regards to light conditions and an annual shearing after flowering.

The benefit of adding manures to poor soils is to improve pore space and increase drainage. If you have heavy soils, the benefit of improving aeration and drainage far outweighs any drawbacks increased fertility or "rich" soils may impart.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2005 at 10:27AM
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rockspray(z6 Cape Cod)

Here is my two cents. First off I went to school in Arcata and College of the Redwoods, there I studied agriculture and soil science.

The soils where you live are poor and do not drain well (unless you are near the beach). It is true that you want to add organic matter to increase pore space in heavy soils, but for heath and heather you should add peat moss that has no real nutrient value. Peat moss will break down over time and will release acidity which these plants need. So hold off on the manure and save it for you veggie/flower garden. Good luck with your garden. Feel free to contact me at our nursery.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2005 at 9:52AM
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deeee(northern calif)

thanks for the replies...being the impusive gardener, i hauled in a few truck loads of manure and have spread it. i will add the peat later, maybe after i've added some leaves and "the etc" to compost over winter. the "dirt" really is bad now, but i'm hoping to have "soil" next year to plant in.

note to "rockspray" you remember regli saying "dirt is what is under your fingernails and what they show at XXX movies, soil is what you grow crops in". I took soils at CR too.... i looked at your website....wish i lived a little closer!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2005 at 6:47PM
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rockspray(z6 Cape Cod)

Good luck with your garden. I will never forget John Regli
or Burt Walker. Two of the best teachers in school or out of school I have ever had. How I miss Humbolt. Heather must grow great up there.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2005 at 2:42PM
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sondra_tn(South East TN (6/7))

All I use in my flower beds is my own horse manure!! LOL I live in EAST TN and have nothing much but red rock clay. I brought some heather up from Fl and planted in nothing but aged manure under some trees with a variety of other plants. They have done wonderful. I just wish I had more as I loved them when I lived in FL.
Not sure if I can take a cutting and place in water to get roots. LOL

    Bookmark   October 14, 2005 at 9:23AM
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rockspray(z6 Cape Cod)

Layering or semi-hardwood cuttings are best. They take awhile to root, so be patient and dont let them dry out to much. The top of your fridge can act as a bottom heat supply, this will speed up rooting. have a great day.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2005 at 4:28PM
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