Thursday, 15 December 2011

Using Manure For Your Deep Raised Bed

It was not so long ago when animal manures were the life and soul of the compost heap and their role in keeping the soil fertile and productive was never in question.

It is only in the last fifty years or so that manures have come to be regarded as unwanted waste products and a problem to dispose of.

The reason is that modern intensive farming methods allow large numbers of animals to be kept on an area of land that is far too small to use all the manure that is produced.

Another reason is with the introduction of artificial fertilisers it has meant that most arable farmers no longer want to manure there land in case it throws the land out of balance.

Using artificial fertilisers, everything is calculated down to the last pound of nitrogen and using farmyard manure throws that out.

To me, it is most bizarre way to go on. Animal manure is just as valuable today as it always was and the benefits to soil health, fertility and structure remain the same as it has for centuries.

As an organic gardener, I only use manures from organic farms. The reason is that non-organic farm yard manure has been spread with God know what and it can cause real harm to your crops (particular tomatoes)

Manures to avoid are those that a from intensive farms such as battery chicken houses and piggeries. These manures can smell quite bad and are very likely to be contaminated with antibotics, growth promoters, and heavy metals.

The best places to get manure from are stables and riding schools. These, by there very nature are often quite close to towns and are more then willing to get rid of there piles of manure which can become an embarrassing problem to them because they do not have land on which to spread their manure on.

If your look around your area you might be lucky enough to find some cattle farmer who may well be able to deliver a trailer of muck to your plot.

Other sources of muck could well be pigeon lofts, rabbit fanciers, and the like. Put an advertisement in your local paper and see what turns up.

Manure is such a valuable material that is worth taking time to search out a suppler, you may well be surprised at what you find.

Horse and cattle manure is the most common form of muck and they will come mixed with straw bedding material which will add bulk to your garden.

If you analysis these manures it may look rather useless in comparison with bagged fertiliser, but this is no reason to reject them. The manure is much better for your soil in the long run, because they provide that all important organic material that your soil will crave.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

What Sort Of Compost Bin To Use?

What sort of compost bin?

The compost heap can be just a heap of green material with a carpet thrown over it. However, most people do tend to do a bit more then that.

Compost containers can be bought ready made but they can be quite expensive to buy. The best of these is The New Zealand Box, which is more or less a wooded oven.

Other containers can be made up more simply and cheaply then the New Zealand Box.

The wire Mesh compost bin is just a wire container lined with carpet or cardboard. This sort of bin is easy and cheap to make. Just chicken wire in a square or circular shape.

Another very cheap and effect way to make a compost bin is: The Pallet Box Bin.
Four sides held together by wire and line with carpet or thick cardboard.

One of the all time favourites is: The Straw Bale Compost Heap.
Straw bales make an excellent insulated, though short-lived compost bin. It should last a couple of years and then the old straw can be used for the start of the next heap.

As has been said, there are some excellent compost containers on the market that are ideal for making really good compost. However, beware, there are also some that are very inefficient containers about.

These inefficient containers are made mainly by companies that are involved in businesses other the gardening. They feel that their materials can be made into a compost bin and give no thought as to weather their containers are actually any good or not.

The main drawback with many commercial containers is that there are wide gaps in the sides that will allow the compost to dry out. You can overcome this by lining the sides with cardboard or old carpet.

One of the best commercially available container is the “ compost tumbler type”.
This is a barrel-shaped container that has some sort of framework so that it can be rotated by hand.

The bin is filled with the some sort of material as a normal compost heap and left for a few days to let the composting start and then you turn the bin several times each day.

The turning action of the tumbler ensures that the composting bacteria are never short of oxygen, so they keep working at full speed.

The constantan mixing makes sure that all the material is well composted and that there are no dry edges.

This is also a very useful method to use when weed seeds or diseased material is bringing used.

You can also put in meat and houses hold scraps with out fear of drawing rats to the site.

These compost tumbles tend to heat up very well and after three to four weeks they will produce an immature compost in which the original material will be unrecognisable.

At this point the compost can be dug right into the garden or you can stacked it up under cover to mature to a finer product and then get on with the next lot in the compost tumbler.

The biggest disadvantage of this method of composting is that it is hard work. It takes a strong arm to turn the tumbler.