2 amendment questions

cottentop(7)February 16, 2013

Hi all,
I'm wondering if its too late to till in composted horse manure into the soil for this year. I haven't picked it up yet so I'm not 100% sure how composted (vs. fresh!) the manure is and I didn't know if its a problem for plants if its too fresh.

I'm also wondering if there are ways to use newspaper in the garden. We get the daily paper and recycling is no problem, but I'm curious if there's a way to put that to use in the garden. Shred & put into compost pile? Line pathways? (Not sure I like the way that would look)

Thanks in advance

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Hi, Cottontop

I expect if you are buying manure in a bag it is OK, at least the stuff I get at Ace Hardware does fine.

I have not been able to use all the news paper we get, but I should make a stronger effort. I make planting pots out of news paper and also mulch with it but I cant use all of it. Some times I just bury it in the garden. I dig a hole with the post hole diggers and wad the paper up and drop it into the hole, them place soil on top of it. I make sure that it is deep enough that the tiller wont pick it up and scatter it. It I mulch with it, I let it soak and just lay it flat section at a time.
Soaking it helps hold it in place while the mulch is placed over it. I need to do a lot more with my news paper, its good organic matter that I dont need to be throwing away.


    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 4:56PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Hi Cottentop,

I have more questions than answers, but I'll throw quick answers back to you and then ask questions for you to consider relevant to my answers.

HORSE MANURE: Horse manure generally is not high-nitrogen and won't burn plants like fresh chicken manure would, so in that sense it would not be a problem to add it to your garden soil. It might be a problem if it was mixed with stable bedding that was extremely well-soaked with urine and if the stable bedding was very fresh and not decomposed at all.


When you say horse manure, if you are referring to manure that is piled up outside someone's barn or stable, more questions arise.....

Mainly, is it aged manure or composted manure? They are not the same thing.

Aged manure, if it has been sitting there for months or years would be fine to use, but I'd be careful using it with root crops within maybe 4 months of putting it in the garden because aged manure may not have reached a high enough heat level (like you'd see in a hot composted pile) to kill any pathogens. If you are getting aged manure from a huge pile, I'd dig through the outer layer of the pile, if possible, and use the older manure deeper in the pile.

Composted manure, if mixed with some sort of stable bedding like sawdust, wood shavings or straw, would be fine for immediate use if all those materials are broken down beyond recognition, even with root crops, if it was hot composted. Without hot composting, some pathogens can survive. If it comes from horses that were given medications or steroids, ther is a slim chance it may contain some of them. I believe composting would break them down though. You still can use raw horse manure in a garden bed with edible crops if you work it into the soil well, but I wouldn't use it with root crops that would be harvested in the next 3 or 4 months. I'd also put mulch over it to reduce soil splash in case any disease pathogens are in the uncomposted manure.

The bigger issue is the use of persistent herbicides on hay crops that then are fed to horses. There are some persistent herbicides, including clopyralid and aminopyralid, that have survived going through the animals' digestive tract and being composted, and they have contained enough herbicide residue to kill some or all of the broadleaf plants that were planted into soil to which the contaminated manure, hay, straw or compost had been added to. Once you inadvertently contaminate your soil, it can be several years before the residues break down to the point that you can raise broadleaf plants in that ground again. I believe you can grow grain crops in it, including corn, because the herbicide only kills broadleaf plants.

When I get hay, straw or manure from someone local, I ask them a bunch of questions before I get it, and if they are not 100% certain that it could not possibly be contaminated, I turn it down no matter how badly I want it....or I pile it up somewhere away from my garden and compost it for a couple more years before using it. I'll link a previous post about "killer compost". All of us need to be aware that while such contamination is rare, it does occur. One of my neighbors believes she ruined her own garden spot prior to last year's gardening season by using hay, straw or manure from her own horse barn, and I think she is right.

NEWSPAPER: With newspaper there are several ways to use it. You can shred it and compost it in your compost pile. Earthworms love cardboard and newspaper and putting it in your pile will attract them to your pile. This works best if you have other items to pile on top of it so it won't blow away.

What I prefer to do is to save up the newspapers until planting time. After planting (either transplanting or after seeds sprout and the plants are up growing), I put down a layer of newspaper roughly 8-10 pages thick and cover the ground with it. I wet it down as I put it down so it won't blow away. Then I pile on some kind of mulch, often chopped/shredded leaves that I cut up by running over them with the lawn mower and catching them in the grass catcher bag, but sometimes just grass clippings, clean hay or straw or even half-finished compost. The newspaper will decompose in a few weeks to a few months depending on your soil temperatures and moisture levels, but in the meantime it will serve as a barrier between weed seeds beneath it and the mulch above it and that will cut down for a while on how many weed seeds sprout.

Another way to use it is to mix newspaper with water and ammonia to make a sort of wet newspaper slurry. You put that slurry down on top of the ground to smother weeds. It forms into a sort of papercrete that will keep the weeds down there for a while.

You can use regular newsprint safely, but it is advised that gardeners not use the glossy advertising inserts.


Here is a link that might be useful: Prev Thread: Killer Compost/Manure/Straw/Hay

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 9:45PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

Dawn how much ammonia do you add to make the newspaper slurry?

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 1:04AM
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The slurry is very interesting, Dawn. I, too, would like to know the answer to that. If you use that on top of the beds, can you plant in it after it sets, or what is the lag time between ability to plant and dissipation of Ammonia? You wouldn't want to plant in Ammonia, would you? Innocent (rather than dumb, I choose to use innocent) questions, but curiosity overwhelms me. I assume you're not putting it down in an existing bed, right?

Thanks for the help.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 11:08AM
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I have never made a product like dawn is telling about, but back in the 1960's/70s I use to get the used ammonia out of the blue print machine at work to use just a little to give my plants a boost. I have used the house hold ammonia a few times also. It is easy to over dose a plant with the stuff I was using. I have never harmed a plant by letting the news paper soak in miracle grow, but I would rather use ammonia if I knew how much to use because it would be so much cheaper.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 5:37PM
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