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Screwed my soil by too much horse manure. What now?  RSS feed

 
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I replaced most of my soil with pure horse manure from a race track. Green leafy things grow alright but plants barely produce any fruit (eggplant, zucchini, tomato etc.).

I figure it's the excessive nitrogen. Is there a FREE way to now improve my soil? The manure soil looks the same as regular soil so I don't know what's what. Even if I suck up all the nitrogen by planting heavy feeders I think there'll be no nutrients at all after that right?

I even have a whole compost bin full of excess horse manure. Not sure what to do with that no given how much effort I put into collecting it.
 
pollinator
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How old was/is this manure ? time is the healer I think

David
 
Tim Kivi
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David Livingston wrote:How old was/is this manure ? time is the healer I think

David



About 6 months now. You mean it's not permanently ruined? I've mixed more clay soil with it to try dilute it but there's still a lot in it.
 
David Livingston
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Far from it . Fresh manure kills most things it needs to rot down a bit some folks leave cow manure for at least nine months for example 
 
gardener
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I agree with David. I think time is the solution. One thing that may lessen the amount of time needed is to make and apply mushroom slurries and compost teas. Supercharge that horse manure with fungi and bacteria to aid in decomposing it faster.
 
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We had similar experience using fresh uncomposted cow manure...

I don't know what your seasons/weather/location or timeframe are but, this is only a suggestion from what we did that worked...
  • get some carbon/brown on top of that manure now: woodchips, old straw, leaves, don't turn it in just put down a nice thick layer
  • pull that cover and your manure layer back and keep trying with longer growing seeds planted right down through the manure into original soil, e.g. squash, melons, corn/maize and brassicas

  • We in fact left our old straw on top of the raw manure over winter and come spring it was perfect.  As David Livingstone said "time is the healer".
     
    David Livingston
    pollinator
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    Had another thought not so good . Is it possible that the horses were eating grass with herbicides ? sometimes this can survive in the shit :-( ?

    david
     
    pollinator
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    David's point voices my primary concern.

    I suggest an application or two of good, oxygenated compost extract, as can be found on Redhawk's soil biology threads, to which I have posted below.

    https://permies.com/wiki/77424/List-Bryant-RedHawk-Epic-Soil

    I would also suggest, as James mentioned, a mushroom slurry.

    If you are in the right climate, Black Soldier Fly Larvae might just find your manure on their own. So will worms, but you could easily accelerate the process by finding one or both. In the event of the latter, keep in mind that they don't like to coexist in the same soil, but worms love the enzymes the BSFLs leave behind, so the BSFLs should go first.

    Other than that, I would just add more organic material, and keep inoculating with compost extracts to introduce beneficial bacteria and fungi.

    I would also plant beets as soon as possible. They love rich soil, and I have found that they love horse manure best, in my experience. Also, squash are heavy feeders. I would make a list of heavy-feeding vegetables and plants that you can use, narrow your selection to several varieties of plants you will most likely appreciate, and overseed with them.

    If you don't like beets, try to choose a heavy-feeding root crop that you do like, or that you can use as feed for livestock.

    One other thing: have you added additional organic matter, and have you tilled it in?

    Keep us posted, and good luck.

    -CK
     
    James Freyr
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    David Livingston wrote:Had another thought not so good . Is it possible that the horses were eating grass with herbicides ? sometimes this can survive in the shit :-( ?

    david



    Unfortunately, this has been documented and does happen. :( But fungi to the rescue, as fungi's can breakdown synthetic herbicides. Mushroom slurries again can help this.
     
    pollinator
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    It doesn't  sound like an herbicide issue. This is based on reading between the lines. The leafy greens are fine, its the fruit that didnt fruit well. The leaf and stems would have been deformed.

    it was applied 6 months ago, It was applied shortly before planting so the season is almost over. This tells me its not usa(we are just now planting).  Im not sure what herbicides are used outside usa.

    If free is the guideline, doing nothing sounds as good as doing something. One seaon later i would suspect that it resolved itself.

    Common practices like keeping no bare soil (cover crops in offseason) would be recommended either way. So let me rephrase it as, doing nothing beyond normal accepted permie practices is needed.

    My observation with cow and horse manure, is that the mushrooms are there. When my spring rains come , mushrooms pop out of cow patties as well as my horse manure that's spread on my gardens or piled up. While adding a slurry won't hurt, i suspect that its already there and doing its job.

    One concern is pure manure lacks minerals the soil has. So pure manure (replaced all garden soil with manure)wasnt good. But he mixed some soil back in which is good.
     
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    Everyone's advice sounds spot-on, so I'll just offer an addendum:

    Horse (or any) manure used in excess can build up rather large amounts of potassium and phosphorous in soils as well. Another potential downside of uncomposted horse manure is a potential abundance of weed seeds.

    Things may not be optimal now, but they are certainly not "ruined." More time and work and you can probably turn that into amazing soil :) Good luck!!
     
    pollinator
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    I would get the soil tested.
     
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    Biggest thing you need is time.  I would suggest adding leaves or other browns to your manured area and tilling or digging them in.  I know many will disagree with the tilling, but I'm in the till camp and in this case tilling the leaves in and getting more air into the mix will do more good than harm.
     
    Chris Kott
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    I think getting the soil tested is always a good idea, but if it's been tested recently, it may not be necessary.

    If it hasn't been tested, you might find issues that you can address at the same time. Say you had great pH for your needs, but the calcium was low. Gypsum grit and dust is a great slow-release calcium amendment that won't alter pH.

    The weakness of chemical soil tests is that they only measures water-soluble content. With that in mind, while soil tests can be useful, it is much more important to ensure proper amounts of organic matter, and to inoculate that with a really good compost extract. That will enable the soil life to make available all the minerals locked up in inaccessible forms.

    All that said, if the soil is too rich, wait, try green manures that work in rich soils, and try crops occasionally that like rich soil, like squash and beets.

    -CK
     
    pollinator
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    1.  Plant nitrogen loving plants.  Tomatoes should do fantastic in that rich soil.  I'd dig a small hole (6 inches wide and 6 inches deep) and fill it with normal garden soil.  Plant your tomatoes in that spot.  Then, as the roots extend outward, they'll find all the wonderful nitrogen from the horse poop.

    2.  Around your tomatoes add lots of browns as a mulch around the plants.  Pile it up on the surface of the soil.  Wood chips would be best, but any heavy carbon: cardboard mulch, shredded paper, dried leaves . . .  Decomposing browns tie up N.

    3.  A nitrogen loving cover crop should also do great.  Basically, any grass.  Sudan grass should do great in that hot soil. 

    4.  If you are willing to do a bit more work, I'd repeat suggestion #1 (dig out holes and fill them with regular garden soil) but with a much larger hole.  Then, plant vining crops like pumpkins, watermellon, and such.  They'll grow out over the top of all that soil.  You might want to cover the soil that the vines extend out over with cardboard or other heavy carbon mulch.  So by replacing one square foot of soil, you're utilizing 100 square feet of garden space.

    RELAX.  You haven't ruined anything.  That soil will be fantastic in a year.  All that N is too hot right now, but you should still be able to get some kind of yield off it this year.
     
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    I use a lot of horse manure. Horse, cow, goat, and rabbit are NOT too 'hot' for gardening.

    Horse manure will carry lots of oat seeds, so you should be seeing a lot of wild volunteer oats.

    In time the manure will decompose to almost nothing, leaving very little bio-mass in it's wake, which is why you can normall re-apply horse manure every year, for many years.

    The nitrogen will leach away with the rains since it is not a legume nitrogen it does not stay in one place well.

    Give it time.

    Get a soil test done.
     
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    Get you some red wigglers and toss in there. (beasties also known as manure worms).  They'll help move that manure into compost quicker.
    Michael
     
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    This might be a case where fresh wood chips might speed up the nitrogen absorption. If it truly is nitrogen overload.

    I would get the soil tested and make sure the lab looks for glyophospate pesticides. Then hope for the best.
     
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    First, I agree with Angelica Maier.  Get your soil tested.  You have no idea where you're at until you do.
    Make sure you get your ph tested.  If the ph is off, then your veg plants (as opposed to others that do grow well) may not be able to uptake the minerals or micronutrients that they need to grow well.
    When you do, post the results and I imagine the forum members will be able to give more specific advice based on the veg you want to grow.

    Jeffrey Pardo
    Abi Gezunt Farm
    Canton, CT
     
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