Andy Rideout column: Here are some safety tips for using manure in your garden – The Gleaner

andy-rideout-column:-here-are-some-safety-tips-for-using-manure-in-your-garden-–-the-gleaner

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Most gardeners are concerned about soil health as much as plant health. Utilizing animal manure in your garden is a great way to add nutrients but animal manures contribute more to the soil than just nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.If you plan to use animal manure, there are some important guidelines to follow.Adding animal manure to your garden helps improve water holding capacity, increased drainage, and build organic matter. Some disadvantages include handling and transportation of manure.Most manures have only a small amount of nitrogen so it will take a lot of manure to provide enough nitrogen for many plants. Finding a source and getting it to your garden could pose some challenges.Some sources of manure contain much more nutrients than others so calculating how much you need for your garden takes a little math. Poultry litter tends to be higher in nitrogen than cattle or horse manure and swine manure tends to be the lowest.  Moisture content also plays a role. The wetter the manure, the less nutrients per weight it contains thereby requiring more material to get your required amount of nutrients. Weed seed introduction is also a concern. Many weed seeds will pass through animals and still be viable in the manure. When you add manure to your garden, if not fully composted, very likely, you will be introducing weeds.Food safety is a concern when using fresh manure. Most manure contains human pathogens such as E. coli. This isn’t a concern with non-edible gardens but in vegetable gardens there are some best practices that are very important to follow.Fresh manure should not be used unless it is worked into the soil as soon as possible. Never plant directly into fresh manure. Wait three months or more before planting edible crops after manure is tilled into the soil. This allows the microbes in the soil to start breaking down the manure.Applying fresh manure can be beneficial as long as you follow best practices but fully composted manure is much easier and safer for vegetable gardens.Not only does it drastically reduce the risk for soil borne pathogens, it reduces introduction of weed seeds also. Consider your source for manure and your use before applying.P. Andrew Rideout is the University of Kentucky Extension Agent for Horticulture at the Henderson County Extension Office.  You can reach him by email at [email protected]
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