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combining unrotted manure, sawdust, woodash and charcoal finings

Posts: 38
Location: Pennines, northern England, zone 7b, avg annual rainfall 50"
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hi newbie market gardener and composter here.

i have been offered the above materials and would like to know what the best combination is for the purpose of starting vegetable beds.

manure - 4 tons or so of sheep bedding: straw and manure that has been sat for 2 years. it has been stored on concrete and we've had epic rain so it is sodden wet and there is no heat in the pile at all. the top and bottom foot are nice, black and crumbly, the middle 3 feet are wet, brown, straw-y and slimy. almost all of it is full of worms though. we have been moving it in bags (no tractor!) so it is sort of being turned in the process, ending up in wet, probably quite airless clods about 6-8" cubed.

sawdust - mix of actual dust-like stuff, and chunkier bits

woodash mixed with charcoal dust - from the bottom of charcoal kilns

we have already decided to spread the manure 6"s thick on top of the pasture to create the beds and leave it until spring before we plant by which time it should have mulched the grass underneath and the worms should have broken it down a lot.

so should we spread either or both of the other materials with the manure? any idea of ratios?

if we have leftover manure after we have made our beds, should we treat the heap with either of the materials?

Posts: 2482
Location: FL
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If you can separate the black crumbly stuff from the wet slimy stuff, you can use the crumbly stuff immediately. The slimy stuff needs more time and could probably do with some of that sawdust mixed in. The sawdust will absorb lots of the moisture, making it less slimy. Does the slimy part stink? If so, it could make good use of the carbon in the sawdust. Those worms will process the material if you did nothing but let it sit.

If it came straight from the kiln untreated, you would do well to let it sit in the rain for a while to wash out the lye. Once it has been rinsed a couple times you should be able to do anything with it.

Sift it from the ash, crush, rinse, do whatever you like.

Don't let it go to waste. The size is right for fast composting but you'll need 2-3 times the weight in high nitrogen material (manure, grass). If you don't have the stuff to mix it with, keep it separate, draw from the pile as you need it. If you can't use it for a couple of years, mix in some soil, soak it. In a couple of years fungi will decompose it, even with no nitrogen material added. If you add it to the manure, consider starting with a ratio of 3 parts (by weight) of manure for 1 part of sawdust.

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