Will this work for soil amendments?

knight2255May 19, 2010

I live in a place with hard red clay soil. I was thinking of adding some cow manure(from HD) and some shredded pine bark compost along with some lime and shredded newspaper(to attract worms). Will this be satisfactory to grow tomatoes with?

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dirtydan(8-9 Lancaster, CA)

Steer manure is not a very good soil amendment because it contains high salt content, antibiotics from the feedlot, and sometimes contains weed seeds and ammonia. Only add lime if the soil needs it.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 2:40PM
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dirtgirl07(GA 8)

I have to disagree on the steer manure not being a good soil amendment. "Cow" manure sold as 'black gold' compost in the bags at Home Depot is very good. It's been used for many, many years and prized by a lot of gardeners. Last year I did switch to mushroom compost but only because it does smell less. I have to rely on the bags of compost because I don't have the space to make my own, but it might be something you'd like to look into.

Another source of nutrients is shredded leaves. I believe that it's as good a mulch as the shredded pine bark.

It might be a good idea to pick up one of the inexpensive soil tests to check for the lime.

There's a big deal about the steer manure spreading stuff this year, but I believe they are speaking of manure that hasn't been treated. (Experts correct me if I'm wrong!) If you can go with the bagged compost, which is more expensive, I would stick with that.

Also, I'm not sure where this 'steer' part has come from. That reference has been in a couple of threads lately.. It's always been 'cow' manure as far back as I can remember, and I'm old LOL.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 12:09AM
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dragonfly_wings(Z8 - Central TX.)

I don't have red clay soil, but if it were me I'd be gravitating toward raised beds. Of course that's not always appropriate to the situation. Some red clay folks seem to think it's really easy to grow in while others find
it to be a lot of work to make it, well....workable.

There's a wealth of information in these forums on that topic that I think would be really helpful.
Try searching 'red clay' and related key phrases. There's also a forum just for discussion on soils.
Here's a couple of threads, but there are MANY:


    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 12:52AM
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dragonfly_wings(Z8 - Central TX.)

This seems to be a very good article on how to work with clay.

Here is a link that might be useful: Improving Clay Soils

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 1:11AM
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dirtydan(8-9 Lancaster, CA)

I agree, cow manure can be a great amendment in certain cases, however I don't think its particularly well suited to dense clay, and can sometimes cause serious problems in clay.

All of the nutrients required by a plant can be easily supplied through proper balanced fertilization, therefore the primary goal of soil amendments is to improve soil structure.

Feedlot manure is 5 to 10% salt according to the University of Arizona ag department. The added salt can be easily washed out of the root zone in sandy soil. In clay, water movement is seriously restricted, therefore salt phytotoxicity can occur, especially in arid regions of the western U.S. Additionally, manure tends to have a high pH as does most clay soil, which is not what tomatoes prefer.

I tend to think that composted manures and peat are better suited to sandy soils where one is attempting to retain water and hold nutrients. Manure does a good job in that capacity although it breaks down in a matter of weeks.

Straw, bark, perlite and even wood chips are a good choice for amending clay since with clay, you are trying to increase permeability, drainage, and oxygen in the root zone. As a side benefit, bark and perlite may last for years..


    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 9:48AM
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dirtgirl07(GA 8)

Hmm, maybe that's why manure works well for me, I'm not in the arid western US, just plain old Georgia red clay here.

I have to go by a lot of what my father has passed on from their family farm where they grew acres of crops. They had plenty of manure, no perlite back then.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 3:55PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

knight2255 - I hope you don't mind if I point you to the Soil Forum here as it has a great many discussions on amending clay soils for best results. Doesn't make much difference what you plan to grow in it, but the soil itself needs as much improvement and prep as possible before planting.

cow manure(from HD) and some shredded pine bark compost along with some lime and shredded newspaper(to attract worms)

I don't have clay soil but while any soil can benefit from composted manures as well as non-manured compost, the plastic bag stuff harvested from feed lots does have its drawbacks as already mentioned. It is very different from farm manure in nutrient levels, pH, and contents such as pathogens, antibiotics, and such.

Obviously there are some brands better than others but none of them can compare to that from a farm source IF you can find one. If not then use the store bought stuff sparingly and save most of it to be added to the soil this fall after harvesting.

Wood chips and wood mulches, when tilled into the soil, bind up nitrogen in the soil making it unavailable for plants while they are decomposing. That can take well over a year or even two. I strongly feel that wood chip mulches have no role in the vegetable garden but if you elect to use it note that you will have to supply additional sources of nitrogen for your plants to avoid problems with them.

Lime is normally only advocated IF you know what your soil pH is and that it is acidic. Have you had it tested? If not, and your soil is already somewhat alkaline then you could be creating some major problems for yourself by adding it.

Shredded paper as a mulch, not in the hole has benefits. Mixed into the soil it has the same problems as wood chips - nitrogen binding - although for not as long.

Hope this helps.


Here is a link that might be useful: Soil, Compost & Mulch forum

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 4:55PM
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