I have a friend who has placed horse manure on their garden in January and the ground is still cold now. What could one do to make sure the ground is warm enough for planting later on apart from using unnatural material? Is there a certain time of the year that is best to start warming the soil in preparation for Winter?
It seems like hugelkultur will do the trick. Or any method of getting a slow decomposition that winter won't stop dead. So basically it seems like just hugelkultur. If you keep the surface dark with humus and compost it would help, but on the flip side, some plants like tomatoes benefit from growing on a reflective surface. I toyed with the idea of using evacuated solar tubing (I don't know if you consider glass and metal natural) to heat water and circulate it under the soil, but it is too expensive and complicated for me to try at the moment.
Wenderlynne, I think I remember you're in England; is your friend there too?
The soil doesn't freeze, right?
When/what are they hoping to plant?
What sort of area are we talking?
In my climate the soil never gets really cold, so my ideas aren't from experience...
nustada asks about your comfort levels with natural/unnatural materials.
Black polythene is the standard soil-warmer in NZ, but it's far from natural!
I wonder about hot-composting in place? It certainly generates a massive amount of internal heat, and I assume that would perculate down to an extent.
They could do windrows, following the garden shapes.
A really basic heat-producing mix like lawn clippings (local lawn guys will drop as much as I'll take) and shredded office paper (there's literally tonnes of it, but not everyone's comfortable using it)
It would get very hot fast, and with a few turns, break down fast too. Clippings get so hot, I don't think you'd need the standard cubic meter of material.
It'd make boring, not very nutricious compost, but it would serve its heating purpose...
I'd also loosten the soil with a fork before building the windrows.
I am wondering if placing cold manures on the ground in January is creating an icy insulative covering that will take longer to warm up just because of when it was put down and what it is made of ? Maybe just breaking it up, raking, hoeing, will make a difference?
Miles Flansburg wrote:I am wondering if placing cold manures on the ground in January is creating an icy insulative covering that will take longer to warm up just because of when it was put down and what it is made of ? Maybe just breaking it up, raking, hoeing, will make a difference?
The issue with insulation, is that it works in both directions resisting heating and cooling. So if you have long winters and insulate the ground, you may actually be keeping the ground cold for your growing season. But I suppose it would work if you have short winters. But if you had short winters, I suspect you probably would not be asking for solutions.
nustada adatsun wrote:The issue with insulation, is that it works in both directions resisting heating and cooling.
This is exactly what is happening. After the snow had melted this spring, I was scraping back wood-chip mulch around some trees to dress with some compost, and the mulch was still frozen solid starting at about 1" deep.
My pile of horse manure freezes at least a couple of feet thick in the winter (low temps around -10°F), but I don't think the very center/bottom of the pile gets frozen solid. If you wanted horse manure to keep the ground from freezing, I think you'd want it to be at least 4' deep.
My strategy for getting the ground to warm up faster in the spring is: (1) don't leave a thick organic mulch after the snow has melted and (2) raised beds. My "raised beds" are just mounded up soil, doesn't have to be a built structure of any kind. Removing mulch helps the sun hit the soil and warm it up, prevents the mulch from being an insulator. I also find that areas near where I have low stone walls seem to warm up faster -- the rocks absorb heat from the sun and release it at night, so on warm sunny spring days they keep the immediately surrounding area from cooling off so much when it gets cold at night. I've also been known to go into the garden and scrape away the last bits of snow off the beds so that the sun starts hitting the soil sooner than it would otherwise...