Is this manure ready to use?

jockewing(9a)May 14, 2013

I can get all the manure I want for a nominal fee ($20 for as much as a truck can hold at a time) from a stable nearby. They keep it in huge piles, starting a new pile so the older piles can age. The pile he scooped mine from was the oldest and he said it was about 6-8 months old. It was a lot darker than the other piles. I think it composed of the stable bedding and the manure, so there is a good bit of wood-looking stuff in it. If it gets wet, I can sometimes smell a slight ammonia odor, but when it's dry I can put my nose right up to it and it isn't unpleasant. Here are some pictures:

Do you think it's ready to use? I was going to use a very thick layer on a large bed I'm making lasagna-style and also to thickly topdress all of my beds.

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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

I think that will be OK.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 2:49PM
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Maybe, although I would be concerned about what looks like a large amount of high carbon (wood chips) material in that manure. Animal manures piled up and left exposed to the weather can lose between 20 and 50 percent of the Nitrogen to the atmosphere (gassing off) as well as more N plus 5 to 20 percent of the P and K due to leaching by rain fall, at least according to many studies I have seen from universities.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 7:24AM
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Kimmsr, if my goal for using the manure is to improve soil texture and increase organic matter, would the nitrogen depletion really be a concern?

Although New Orleans, which is famous for its excellent soils is only about 25 miles from where I live, I have completely different soils. I am north of Lake Pontchartrain and thus not in the Mississippi River floodplain. So my soil has not been replenished with the river silt from the Mississippi over the centuries, and I have very ancient heavy clay soils.

I actually live in an older neighborhood with lots of mature trees, so there is actually a decent layer of topsoil, but just beneath is the clay. When wet, this stuff is slippery, gray, and it even stinks. It's the kind of stuff that turns into rocks if it dries out. In a previous home in this area where builders had either scraped or ruined the topsoil with their heavy machinery, the soil was an utter nightmare. Trees planted on mounds for drainage improvement still would hardly grow after years of being in the ground. The clay was so heavy I don't think the roots could penetrate the surrounding soil.

So my primary goal for the manure is not fertilization, it is to improve the texture of the clays and provide organic matter to feed the food/soil web. I can provide nitrogen in other ways. Considering that, do you think the manure will provide benefit?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 7:40AM
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You have that gumbo stuff too, eh? I feel your pain. Got rice shovel?

Can't really tell from the picture, but it does look like it has a lot of wood chips in it, which is probably a good thing. I am no manure expert - try not to touch the stuff. But, if you smell ammonia when it's moist, then it's probably not yet ready to use in a bed as OM. It may well continue to give up ammonia when moist, and that could kill some plants.

The ammonia smell comes from decomposition in a low carbon situation. The microbes are carbon limited, so they chew out the carbon parts of proteins, etc., and let the excess nitrogen go as ammonia. Some turning and aeration, along with enough high C materials will get you through that in fairly short order. When it's ready it will have a nice earthy almost fresh mushroom odor when moist.

As an OM amendment, it will be fantastic!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 8:54AM
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I have a stable, have horses and have used a similar product very successfully. What I have done with not quiet finished stall waste is to use it as mulch a few inches thick. Keeping it on top of the soil will prevent it from tying up any nitrogen from soil. By Fall the worms will have been busy and anything that hasn't incorporated itself into the soil can be turned into it. Then put another few inches on top of that and let it sit over the winter. I think you will be pleased come next Spring.

If you don't like the look of the compost as mulch you can spread a thin layer of "real" mulch over it. In my more formal areas I spread about an inch of fine bark fines (sold here at Lowe's as "soil conditioner") over it.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 8:20PM
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Manure, alone, is not the best source of organic matter for soil and it needs vegetative waste, in a 1 part manure to 3 parts vegetative waste ratio, to make soils into good, healthy soils. If the manure you have has as much wood chips, high carbon, as it appears the N loss already experiences may mean an N deficiency in your soil as the bacteria try to digest those wood chips causing poor plant growth.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 6:30AM
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I would use it as top dressing in a heart beat. I used the same stuff on some of my beds when I moved in. Had a decent pile from the stables that were here, but it is all gone now. My neighbor just spreads it out thinly in his horse pasture and it is covered by grass fairly quickly. Remember the digestive systems of horses are one of the most inefficient of the domestic livestock, so there is much more undigested vegetation left for worms to use to break down into good soil.

Purchased a house that is on nasty coastal black gumbo clay here in TX. Thin layer of top soil is all we have. Have family not far from where you are. Lots of organics help. Good luck.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 12:02AM
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Another idea for your area is maybe look up any rice mills within driving distance. They typically have piles of rice hulls that they will let you grab. I have been told that they work well for adding organic to heavy clay soils. Plan to try some late this summer

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 1:42PM
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Good idea about the rice hulls, but I live way in the eastern part of the state, almost at the Mississippi border. All of the rice production occurs in the Southwest part of the state. Don't know if I'm ready to drive for hours and hours for organic matter.

I really would like to try this expanded shale I've heard about, but don't know where to get this either.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 11:22AM
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You might check with a local feed store for rice hulls - they are often used as a cheap fiver source in animal feeds.

On expanded shale in less than bulk quantities, try calling TXI and see if they know anyone selling in your area. If you're interested in bulk quantities, check with local gravel/aggregate suppliers (as for construction/paving) and ask about 'lightweight aggregate'.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 11:42AM
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