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fresh duck bedding as soil improver?  RSS feed

 
S Carreg
Posts: 260
Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
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I am just starting out in setting up vegetable production on my land, it is compacted, clayey, very stony soil, nutrient poor. I am trying all kinds of different organic matter, trying basically anything I can get my hands on. I can get rotted horse manure, which is great, but I can't get it delivered, which is bad. One thing I do have on site is duck bedding, which is straw and duck poop. It's in a composter but I've filled that already within a few months, so obviously the stuff is basically not broken down yet. Do I absolutely have to compost this fully before I can use it, or could I fork it into a veg bed, bury it, leave it for a few weeks and then start planting? Would the nitrogen still be too hot? Just trying to use what I have!

Similarly, seaweed - I can get plenty of this for free. I am fermenting some of it into liquid soil fertilizer, but could I also dig some directly into veg beds, rest them a few weeks, and then plant?
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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I haven't used duck bedding, so I'll leave that one.
But seaweed I'm familiar with, and I don't think you can overdo it, really!
Being in Wales, I assume you've got a pretty high rainfall?
Lots of info recommends washing seaweed to remove salt, but damaging sodium chloride is just one of many valuable sea salts.
In a sandy and/or wet environment, I wouldn't wash it.
I find seaweed breaks down very fast in damp soil, and I'd say you'll be fine to plant in a couple of weeks. (if it's on top and dry, it can sit for a long time)
If you have a choice, the big, rubbery kelps are the best. If you don't have kelp, the bladderwrack types are good.
Anything that's green, or has fine, wispy growth is way better than nothing, but doesn't have the nutritional and structural benefits of the big seaweeds.
Be warned though, seaweed's high protein content is its blessing and its curse: it can really stink.
Try to get weed under the soil when it's fresh. Flies will 'blow' it as soon as it gets a bit whiffy.
I've heard innoculating with lactobacillus is supposed to help liquid seaweed's smell .
Don't seal the fermenting container: as it ferments, it expands. Stinkbomb!
Black soldier fly larvae love liquid seaweed. You have ducks...
 
S Carreg
Posts: 260
Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
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Thank you! I can usually gather an assortment, mostly kelp, oarweed, and bladderwrack. It's just sitting in some waterproof sacks to ferment at the moment as I dont have a spare barrel yet. I'm going to gather some more this week after the wind to dig into the beds, so thank you. Good tip about the flies too - gotta read up on those!
We do have a very high rainfall, nearly 2 meters annually, so I can't imagine it would need too much washing...
 
A Philipsen
Posts: 58
Location: OR - Willamette Valley
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Probably the best thing to do with the duck bedding is try it in a small area so you will know for sure I'd be inclined to think it's too rich, but your climate is rainy and your soil is poor, so it might be ok. What I do with my chicken bedding (similar, but different) is either the compost pile or sheet mulching. It smothers grass nicely and I can plant in that spot the next season.
 
S Carreg
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Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
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Thanks. I am working my way through a large round bed in sections - we tilled it roughly to break up the grass, now I am working through manually to remove as many stones as possible and then work in different types of material. So I will have a nice little comparative experiment. I will do a small area with the duck bedding and see how it works. Do you think there's a particular category of plants that might do better (or a category to definitely avoid)?
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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S Carreg wrote: Do you think there's a particular category of plants that might do better

Rhubarb loves fresh manure of various kinds
 
S Carreg
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Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
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ah, great, i will mulch around the rhubarb with some it it for sure then. i will still dig some into a bed as an experiment. i was going to dig it in this week and then let it rest a month or so until i have some brassicas (cabbage and cauli) seedlings ready to go it as a trial?
 
Adam Klaus
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Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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if you have a month until you plan to plant, you might try composting it. this time of year with warmer temps, and with a good compost starter/innoculant, you would get a good primary breakdown of the material in a compost pile. for growing cabbage and cauli, in my experience, they will do much better with a more stabe form of nitrogen than the fresh manure will provide. you will get some decomposition by digging the bedding into the soil and waiting a month, but i think you would get much more in a compost pile. then you can top dress your planting, allowing the rain to percolate the nutrients down into the plants root zone. and by leaving the partially composted material on the soil surface, it will continue to break down better than if it were burried in wet soil.

nature always fertilizes from above.
 
S Carreg
Posts: 260
Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
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Thank you again.

I seem to be having really bad luck - well I know it's not luck, it's a failing on my part - with compost. I have one heap I built as a layered heap with fresh horse dung and straw that I just can't seem to get going, and what's called a 'dalek' style composter here, like an upside down garbage can that's open at the bottom, which had well rotted duck bedding at the bottom, and has been filled with fresh bedding over the past few months and again, nothing seems to be happening. I have been trying to aerate them to give them a boost but they just won't heat up and nothing seems to be happening at all. I don't know what to try innoculating them with, since the only stuff I have that is actually composted is at the bottom of the bin and that hasn't worked either.
 
Adam Klaus
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Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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for a good compost starter, check out http://www.biodynamic.org.uk/farming-amp-gardening/preparations.html

I would reccomend the mausdorf starter or barrel compost. after mixing with water, spray or sprinkle it on your duck bedding as you pile it up.
make the pile in a rough rectangle, say 1m wide by 2m long by 1m tall, depending on how much material you have
common cause of failure is the material being too wet, which basically drowns the microbial life. of course, if there isnt adequate microbial life, that could be the problem too. using the biodynamic starter will resolve that potential problem.

dont feel bad that the compost isnt working, sometimes too much effort or complication is the problem.
when it clicks and you get heat coming out of your stinky pile, you know that you are on your way.
the value of good compost will repay you for all your frustrated efforts. it really is the gold of gardening.
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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S Carreg wrote: a 'dalek' style composter

It's very difficult to get compost hot unless you have a volume of at least 1meter cubed. That's a lot more than those Daleks hold!
Although I think if you pulled it off the current batch, got plenty of grass clippings and mixed them through as you reloaded it, it will quite possibly heat up.
Aside from the volume thing, the plastic jobbies stop any water getting in, and water's vital.
 
S Carreg
Posts: 260
Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
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It's a very large dalek so it's definitely at least 1 cubic meter. And it's plenty wet - the duck bedding is very wet. Part of my problem is regulating the moisture because it is so wet here. I have the open heap covered with cardboard because otherwise it would just be a puddle (we get nearly 2 meters annual rainfall, and this spring has been very wet indeed). When I've tried forking it through it seems pretty moist in the middle, but I don't know!
 
Evan Pintzuk
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Pee on it!! Cover it with a tarp...wait 3 days and turn it...pee on it again and cover!! Keep this cycle going!! Should heat up!! Keep the moisture regulated too...tarp should help with the heat, moisture, and co2 retention!!
 
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