We gardeners just love, love, love manure. Man, we just can’t get enough of it! Horse manure, steer manure, chicken manure, bat guano – we love it all.
It is quite apparent that the soil in my raised beds is tired. The cooler summer this year is no excuse for my poor show of tomatoes and peppers. So, I’m taking a two pronged approach to amending the soil in my raised beds to try to remedy the problem.
First of all, yes, you guessed it – Manure! I’m adding steer manure (or cattle manure as it is called in Ireland). If I had a truck and easy access to my raised beds, I’d go get horse manure from my horsey buddies. But there is no truck. I know that my neighbors would lend me theirs – but to haul horse manure? – it’s too much to ask. And I’d still have to cart it from the driveway to the back yard in wheel barrowfuls.
If there was a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Cars, my husband would have reported me to them along time ago – mostly for neglect (to the car not him). But even I draw the line at filling the trunk of the Mazda 3 with horse poop. Fortunately for disabled gardeners like us car owners, the big box stores sell steer manure in nicely packaged bags. Easy to load and unload, more practical for me to transport. From a sustainable point of view, I don’t like using all that plastic, but if I owned a truck think of all the diesel/petrol/gas (delete as appropriate re car model and country you live in!) it would use. And it is cheap.
Home Depot sells theirs for 97cents a bag and Lowes is $1.27. So what’s the difference?
Home Depot’s is a blend (you’d think it was coffee for goodness sakes!) of steer manure and compost, whilst Lowes is pure steer manure, though one would wonder what’s pure about cow crap? Both claim to be screened and weed free. We’ll soo see about that! The compost/steer manure mix is darker and heavier compared to the lighter colored and textured pure manure which felt richer and had a less pungent aroma. (Stills sounds like we’re talking about coffee.) The picture below shows where I have dumped the bags out in alternate piles. The one with the fork in it is the Home Depot mix. I decided to use a mixture of both, but tend to favor the texture of the pure manure from Lowes.
A very experienced Master Gardener friend of mine, Karen Schaffer, also gave me a great tip – double dig and then bury my kitchen scraps. This is the second prong of my approach.
After forking the manure through the soil, I dug a trench 2 spade depths down and threw in kitchen scraps as they became available. I made the next step a little more labor intensive than it has to be, but when I filled in the trench I used my hands to “crumble the soil” so that it would be soft and fluffy.
Hopefully, I won’t need to do that step every time I double dig and bury kitchen scraps, but it did feel good to get all that soil loosened up. Up until now, I’ve been lazy about soil prep.
Once it’s all soft, the last thing I want to do is compact the soil, so I developed a very hi-tech device for enabling me to work on the beds without standing on the newly worked soil. I’ll be registering the patent once the beta testing is over.
When all the soil was hand filled back into the bed, it looked like a crumbed chocolate cake.
With all that manure in it though I wasn’t about to taste it! I planted a bed of beet seeds that I hope will be ready in time for VIP visitors in February – my nephews. I do believe that they are future Master Gardeners as they too delight in talking about manure. Especially the effect of beets on said waste product!
With a good shake of Sluggo for slug protection and netting for bird defense, I kept the soil moist and watched for the first little seeds germinating. Below is the winner of the Cute Dicotyledon Competition for this week.
Anyone for coffee and some chocolate cake crumbs?