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Manure can be a great addition to your home garden if used at the right time and in the right way. Your flowers and vegetables will appreciate the nitrogen that manure adds to the soil. But there is much to consider when using manure in your garden, including when to add manure and which manure is the best choice for your particular garden. Answering these questions before you spread the manure is an important step in gardening success.
Photo Credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1307757
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What to look for in manure
There are many different kinds of manure and they all have their own advantages. One of the most common manures for gardening is cow manure. Cows chew up and break down their food very thoroughly in regular digestion. This means that cow manure is not very likely to carry stray weeds into your garden and make your job harder. Cow manure is typically available from farms. Contact farms near you to see if they have manure available. Some may even be willing to provide it for free as long as you come and pick it up. The only real drawback to cow manure is that it can be messier than other choices.
Some other picks for manure are horse, chicken, and turkey manure. Horse manure has a slight disadvantage because a typical horse diet will involve a lot of seeds that are not particularly well broken down. This leads to more weeds in gardens. Turkey and Chicken manure may be a good choice if you can find a nearby source.
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Well aged manure
When using a manure on a vegetable garden it is important to insure that it is well-aged. Well-aged compost will be far less likley to carry pathogens like e. Coli. Also, fresh manure gives off a lot of heat and can damage plants.
Well aged manure goes through a hot phase during the first five days or so where it will reach high temperatures that help to kill off much of the harmful pathogens. After that it is cured for several months. This time period allows beneficial microbes to multiply and eradicates any lingering pathogens.
If you are not interested in manure for a vegetable garden it is not nearly as important that it be well-aged.
When procuring your manure be sure to ask about the curing process. Any place you get manure from should be able to give you a good idea of how long the manure has been curing and be able to tell you if it is well-aged.
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When to use manure
The best time to apply manure to your garden is in the fall after you have finished harvesting all of your vegetables. This allows the manure to improve your soil throughout the winter and early spring and gets the soil ready for planting. While manure can be applied at other times it is best used sparingly. Manure applied during wet seasons like the spring can be washed away in rain storms and pollute nearby waterways.
Manure is a great resource for the home gardener, and with the proper use and precautions it can offer the great benefits of bigger, healthier, more weed resistant plants.