Mulch, Manure, etc around shrubs, trees.....

buckster(z8)January 5, 2009


I have bounced around this forum in the past and have been reading a lot of old posts. Some people it seems believe manure is ok others post to compost it first. So I though I would post what I want to do and put it up for posting.

I have alot of shrubs and fruit trees. About 2 acres worth. So it is not a small space.

I have access to manure, not composted, wood chips some old some new.

I would like to put this around the old lilac, cherry trees and other fruit trees, not in my garden of veg.

I would love to pile this up and compost it. But I don't have a tractor or the time.

I mainly have time in the winter and I would like to put manure mainly horse and a little wood chips around the plants. The reason for this is my soil is high desert alk. that bakes in the summer. I have everything under drip lines and I want to not have to water as much. When I dig around the plants I never see any worms. The fruit trees are peach cherry etc.

Let me know what you think. I would love to make compost but I don't have a lot of time to get all the materials and I only have this month or so to do this and then the rains stop.

Thanks a ton,


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I think you need to make the distinction between fresh manure, aged manure and composted manure. Concerns arise with using fresh manure in pretty much any gardening sitaution, as it typically contains high levels of urine (read ammoniacal nitrogen) that can cause burning of plant tissue. If the manure is sufficiently aged, much of this leached out or volatized, reducing or eliminating the concern. Composted manure has additional benefits in that the composting process - if done correctly - will overcome the potential for weed seeds and pathogens to remain. But it also has less nutrient value as a result.

If the manure has been aged at all - it has been sitting exposed to the elements for a substantial period of time (it is difficult to find concensus in just what this 'period' is but a good rule of thumb is 6 months or when it loses any strong ammonia aroma) - then by all means use it as a mulch for trees and shrubs. There is no compelling need to age wood chips at all. Be sure to keep any kind of mulch well away from trunks or stems to prevent encouraging rot.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 1:08PM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

g'day bucky,

you are talking about putting this material manure and chip on top of the soil out to just beyond the drip line?

then yes i would do that and maybe go a little further, i would be wanting to mulch regularly (twice a year as it breaks down) with a hay type mulch (to a depth of say 18" give or take) they not only insulate the root runs & retain soil moisture, but as they break down they add nutrients. keep any material around 6" away from the trunks of the trees.

we always mulch our fruit trees this way never had to seek out manure as they seem to get enough nutrients.


Here is a link that might be useful: lens garden page

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 1:34PM
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Manures, not composted, whether fresh or aged are storhouses of many disease pathogens and that is why all animal manures should be composted before they are spread around on soil, even in an orchard. Yes, our ancestors spread manure and often did not get sick but they really did and because no one recognized what those diseases were they did not know from whence they came and we still have people that do not know that. Manure should only be part of the total organic matter that is added to soil, not the only thing that is added and not the major part because the nutrients in manures are pretty soluble and can, if too much is added to a soil for that soil to hold (inadequate levels of vegetative waste to lock up the nutrients) that manure can be a source of pollution.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 7:32AM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

In the strictest sense of pathogen control, kimmsr is correct and I would normally concur to compost the manure. But if I were in your situation (time restricted, type of plants it's being used on) I would do as gardengal and len suggest. If the amonia smell is gone, have at it.


    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 8:04PM
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Actually, I have understood that there is a reason to age wood chips. When fresh and green, they will remove nitrogen from the soil-so I've read...


    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 1:54PM
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You probably know this already, but make sure to mulch all the way out to the drip-line of the trees (as far as branches extend laterally.)

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 2:48PM
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blutranes(z8 Mid Ga)

Buckster said:

"Let me know what you think. I would love to make compost but I don't have a lot of time to get all the materials and I only have this month or so to do this and then the rains stop."

I may be too late with my input, but I will offer my thoughts and hope for the best.

Making compost does not take a lot of input; the main reason for all the turning, temperature taking, and other techniques is to speed the composting process. Compost made by creating a pile of horse manure and wood chips left to its own natural time frame will make compost just as good as turning the pile every +3 (three) days or more. It all comes down to a matter of time. Ingredients you pile up now will be ready to use next season if constructed in a general 3:1 ratio of browns to greens. You already know about how your environment plays into the mix of the process, thus one can take measures (cover the pile, add extra moisture, leave exposed during rainy season) to get the most bangs for the buck (excuse the pun).

What you are describing in your post could be sheet composting. It has worked for years for other members; I see no reason it shouldnÂt work for you. I would tweak the process to fit my circumstances and go for it. I trust this helps in some wayÂ


    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 3:12PM
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Tony, that concept is only accurate (in part) if you are incorporating the wood chips into the soil. Used as a mulch, there is only a very minor tying up of nitrogen at the soil surface, nothing that would have any negative effect on any woody plants and even unlikely to have much of a detrimental effect on more leafy, shallowly rooted annual crops.

And fresh chips that contain a lot of green material are actually a nitrogen source rather than a nitrogen drain.

You might want to review this recent thread on using wood chips as a mulch.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fresh wood chip mulch

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 3:42PM
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