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

 
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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.
 
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How old was/is this manure ? time is the healer I think

David
 
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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  
 
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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
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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.
     
    gardener
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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.
     
    pollinator
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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
     
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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.
     
    pollinator
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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
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    All crap has to sit for a year and human crap has to sit for two years then it is ready to be used as compost
     
    Arthur Mott
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    Arthur Mott wrote:All crap has to sit for a year and human crap has to sit for two years then it is ready to be used as compost


    Compost is not soil. Dirt is soil.Fruits and vegetables and plants are not planted in compost they're planted in soil. you do not feed the plant you feed the soil some people use synthetic fertilizers and people like me use only organic that's why the plants are planted in the soil and
    compost is used to feed the soil. Seeds cannot be planted in compost and compost cannot cover up a plant.
     
    pollinator
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    Arthur Mott wrote:

    Arthur Mott wrote:All crap has to sit for a year and human crap has to sit for two years then it is ready to be used as compost


    Compost is not soil. Dirt is soil.Fruits and vegetables and plants are not planted in compost they're planted in soil. you do not feed the plant you feed the soil some people use synthetic fertilizers and people like me use only organic that's why the plants are planted in the soil and
    compost is used to feed the soil. Seeds cannot be planted in compost and compost cannot cover up a plant.



    I plant seeds directly in compost all the time with great results.
     
    pollinator
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    Yeah I put fresh horse manure on my strawberries after a friend swore by it.
    Lesson learned. I'm sticking to whipped cream from now on.
     
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    Nick Kitchener wrote:Yeah I put fresh horse manure on my strawberries after a friend swore by it.
    Lesson learned. I'm sticking to whipped cream from now on.


    HAH!  Took me a second.
     
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    Trace Oswald wrote:

    Arthur Mott wrote:

    Arthur Mott wrote:All crap has to sit for a year and human crap has to sit for two years then it is ready to be used as compost


    Compost is not soil. Dirt is soil.Fruits and vegetables and plants are not planted in compost they're planted in soil. you do not feed the plant you feed the soil some people use synthetic fertilizers and people like me use only organic that's why the plants are planted in the soil and
    compost is used to feed the soil. Seeds cannot be planted in compost and compost cannot cover up a plant.



    I plant seeds directly in compost all the time with great results.



    Same.
     
    master gardener
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    r ranson wrote:

    Trace Oswald wrote:

    Arthur Mott wrote:

    Arthur Mott wrote:All crap has to sit for a year and human crap has to sit for two years then it is ready to be used as compost


    Compost is not soil. Dirt is soil.Fruits and vegetables and plants are not planted in compost they're planted in soil. you do not feed the plant you feed the soil some people use synthetic fertilizers and people like me use only organic that's why the plants are planted in the soil and
    compost is used to feed the soil. Seeds cannot be planted in compost and compost cannot cover up a plant.



    I plant seeds directly in compost all the time with great results.



    Same.



    Isn't that basic hugelculture? Building a big heap of compost, with hardwood at the core, and planting directly into it?
     
    gardener
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    Carla Burke wrote:

    Isn't that basic hugelculture? Building a big heap of compost, with hardwood at the core, and planting directly into it?

    I recall that traditional hugelculture used a lot of dirt and only a little compost. But dirt is *really* hard to move, so I admit mine tend to be compost heavy. The downside is that they shrink faster than a more "dirt" one would.

    With more compost, it may be better to concentrate on heavy feeders like cabbage the first year.  My tomatoes tend to put out a lot of green and less fruit than they would if the soil was less rich.
     
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    I did the same sort of thing one time when I haphazardly threw together a bunch of beds one late fall. I decided to head to the nearest hedgerow on the property and scrape 4 or 5 inches off the top of the soil around the trees, and then add that soil to the beds with too much horse manure. That was a free way to improve the beds.

    I also sprayed the beds heavily with fish emulsion and kelp every couple weeks, mostly with the intention of inoculating and breaking down the manure faster. That bottle cost me $30 or $40 and would easily last a season or more.

    Depending how your beds are set up you could think about double digging and effectively mixing the manure with more soil. It sounds like you replaced raised beds with horse manure though. Even then maybe you could scrape soil from the paths around your raised beds if your soil isn't junk? Less hauling!

     
    Arthur Mott
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    Just rake the manure back away from the plants and get down to the soil then it'll still work for the rest of the year
     
    pollinator
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    I’d embed that shit with lots of wood and call it a hugel.
     
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    James Freyr wrote:

    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.



    Also, by layering some woodchips (can be free from tree trimming companies or various mills) on top of the manure, the nitrogen will start to be balances out with carbon. And the woodchips likely already are inoculated with fungal mycelium, at least in my experience. If they dont appear to be, they will get colonized quickly and make a great medium for mushroom slurries to be dumped on.
     
    pollinator
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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



    If they were race horses, I should hope that their grass/ field was not sprayed. -at all-. On the outside possibility that there were chemicals of any kind, you will not know until you plant. Fast crops, like radishes, might give you an idea, but even if there is too much manure, don't despair. Time heals all wounds, and that is true of gardens as well. If you can get the soil analyzed, that might be a good idea to help you make the *right* corrections.. That is where I'd start. Herbs usually thrive on poorer grounds, but there is always container gardening.
    In a separate comment, you seemed to be yearning for a pool, [but for animals?]. If it were me, I'd nix that idea: They take a lot of maintenance and can be a source of mosquitoes unless you have a way to stir the water. They may be more trouble that they are worth [how deep? Would it need a fence around it?]. what will be the purpose? Swimming, raising fish, bog plants, turtles?
    Because you seem pretty much fenced in on all sides, you will not have any trouble avoiding rabbits or anything bigger. I don't welcome cats, as they eat birds, but that's me. If you plant as many trees as will fit, you will have a great backyard with lots of birds.
    Since the space is too small to grow *all* your food, if you have a good source of fresh produce and can afford it, I'd totally dedicate the space to "wildlife". From hedgehogs to turtles, toads, and of course birds, you could have the area replete with wild life!
    Good luck to you
     
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    I would not recommend any use of horse manure now without absolutely knowing its provenance. Most horse owners offering manure to gardeners in sunny Devon cannot guarantee that the horse feed they have been using is herbicide free. This was painfully illustrated to me when I used infected manure to make liquid tomato feed a couple of years ago. Result was that an entire harvest had to be destroyed as I could not offer any of the crop for human/animal consumption. These herbicides are nearly biologically indestructible and should not be perpetuated in the food chain at any time. I have had to clear out all the raised beds in the tunnel and re-establish new/fresh growing medium because of this. Believe me when I say that it is a BIG mistake not knowing the provenance of your food and your animal feed. I am now making all my own compost and plant growing medium because the risk posed by these herbicides and pesticides is too great. Needless to say that horse or any animal manure is not included in any of my composting recipes!
     
    James Freyr
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    Arthur Mott wrote:Seeds cannot be planted in compost ....



    My experience is different. While I've never intentionally planted seed into a compost pile, I've had numerous volunteer plants sprout over the years from seeds in vegetable matter added to the compost pile. Last year I had my best ever butternut squash voluntarily sprout in a compost pile and that single vine yielded me over two dozen squash.
     
    Brody Ekberg
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    James Freyr wrote:

    Arthur Mott wrote:Seeds cannot be planted in compost ....



    My experience is different. While I've never intentionally planted seed into a compost pile, I've had numerous volunteer plants sprout over the years from seeds in vegetable matter added to the compost pile. Last year I had my best ever butternut squash voluntarily sprout in a compost pile and that single vine yielded me over two dozen squash.



    I agree, at least for squashes. They volunteer out of my compost pile all of the time.
     
    Jay Angler
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    Frody Eckberg wrote:

    I agree, at least for squashes. They volunteer out of my compost pile all of the time.

    Yes, however, the one bad batch of manure I got, killed squash I planted there. It did so the following year. I quarantined that spot, and it's currently growing grass (not affected by the toxin), but I'm thinking this year I will try again as a "test".
     
    Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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    Jay Angler wrote:Frody Eckberg wrote:

    I agree, at least for squashes. They volunteer out of my compost pile all of the time.

    Yes, however, the one bad batch of manure I got, killed squash I planted there. It did so the following year. I quarantined that spot, and it's currently growing grass (not affected by the toxin), but I'm thinking this year I will try again as a "test".



    I feel for those who cannot raise their own fertilizer and have to depend on 'gifts' from God knows where. I encourage you to raise your own comfrey. You can do that anywhere you live and you can get 3-4 crops of it [well, 3 for me because I'm in zone 4b, so the season is a bit short]
    You will find recipes for comfrey tea everywhere, and it is really good stuff, without weeds. Those plants are great perennials to add to any guild under your fruit trees: In the fall, when they die off, they cover the ground around your plantings and they can get nutrients from 5-6 ft. below. If you have manuring animals, like chickens, you can also feed them the stuff, then use their manure.
    I just received some today [not manure, comfrey] and just like the ones I received a few years back, I'm planning to plant them, then make my own cutting to get even more. I'm telling you: I just can't get enough of this knit bone!
     
    Jay Angler
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    Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:

    I encourage you to raise your own comfrey. You can do that anywhere you live and you can get 3-4 crops of it  

    Yes, more recently than the manure, I was given some comfrey. Thank you for the reminder, as this might be a good time to transplant some of it. Believe it or not, I have managed to kill it on 2 occasions - I've got a lot of shade and summer drought.
    The current "happy" comfrey is uphill from my purple plum tree. Now the problem is that the bees are sooo... happy to see the blooms, I've not been good about chopping it. Do you think it would hurt if I chopped outer leaves while leaving the flower stock?
     
    Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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    Jay Angler wrote:Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:

    I encourage you to raise your own comfrey. You can do that anywhere you live and you can get 3-4 crops of it  




    [quote=Jay Angler Yes, more recently than the manure, I was given some comfrey. Thank you for the reminder, as this might be a good time to transplant some of it. Believe it or not, I have managed to kill it on 2 occasions - I've got a lot of shade and summer drought.
    The current "happy" comfrey is uphill from my purple plum tree. Now the problem is that the bees are sooo... happy to see the blooms, I've not been good about chopping it. Do you think it would hurt if I chopped outer leaves while leaving the flower stock?




    If you want lots of leaves, you have to chop off the flowers: the flowers / seed making take a lot of energy out of the plant. I suppose chopping the leaves 3-4 times a season also takes a lot out of them. I try not to let them produce flowers, even though I have bees. I figure there are many other blossoms available to them at this time of year.. but, yes, it bugs me that i have to cut the flowers to get all these leaves.
     
    Trace Oswald
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    Jay Angler wrote:Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:

    I encourage you to raise your own comfrey. You can do that anywhere you live and you can get 3-4 crops of it  

    Yes, more recently than the manure, I was given some comfrey. Thank you for the reminder, as this might be a good time to transplant some of it. Believe it or not, I have managed to kill it on 2 occasions - I've got a lot of shade and summer drought.
    The current "happy" comfrey is uphill from my purple plum tree. Now the problem is that the bees are sooo... happy to see the blooms, I've not been good about chopping it. Do you think it would hurt if I chopped outer leaves while leaving the flower stock?



    When I had a few plants I could never bring myself to cut them either.  The bumblebees just love the flowers.  My solution was to plant lots (and lots and lots) of them, and now I can cut them on a rotational basis so the bees always have some.  I'm surprised you managed to kill it, but it's so easy to grow more, you can easily turn one plant in 20 more.
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