Best nitrogen fix

ken1October 4, 2010

What would you folks use to spike the nitrogen in your garden without running off all the worms. I'd prefer to use an organic amendment. I have several hundred pounds of three year old, pelleted chicken manure, would that be a wise choice?

What would your choices be? Right now the soil tests 4.7 ppm and is rated low. What should it be?



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please explain the "spike the nitrogen in your garden without running off all the worms" part. very intrigued.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 3:11AM
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I simply want to raise the nitrogen level in the soil and not run the worms off. My understanding is , commercial fertilizers, such as ammonium nitrate will discourage worm activity.
I'd like to know if natural fertilizers, such as horse, worm, or whatever, is a better choice.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 3:18AM
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pippimac(New Zealand)

That chook poo sounds good to me! It's old enough that if your climate allows, you could plant a leguminous winter cover crop straight after you spread it.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 6:44AM
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When was that soil test for Nitrogen taken? Since the availability of Nitrogen in soil is very temperture dependant a soil sample tested when the soil is too cool for the soil bacteria to be very active it may well test low, or if the soil does not have sufficeint organic amtter to support an active Soil Food Web the same thing can happen.
What did that soil test say about the other nutrients? What about the balance of those nutrients. It is never a good idea to add one nutrient without considering what will happen to the balance of nutrients.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 6:58AM
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The manures you list will work.

Used coffee grounds are available for free from Starbucks and are about 2% N.

Any ground grain will also work.

One thing to note is that with organic sources of N, there typically will not be a spike, since they all release the N slowly. A couple of exceptions are poultry manure and blood meal.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 12:05PM
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Thanks for all your input. I think I will go on and try using the chicken manure as I have close to 4000 lbs of the stuff. (don't plan to use it all at once)
Kimmsr, since you asked, here is my soil report, received last friday.
ph--7.8 may use sulpher to lower?
EC .52
Ca 4000 ppm
Mg 630 ppmNa 59 ppm
K 670 ppm
n 4.7 ppm
P 230 ppmFl high
Esp .9
Cec 27.2

Their only suggestion was to add 1 lb of sulpher per 100 sq ft and 2 lbs nitrogen per 100 sg ft

Your thoughts? amybody?

    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 2:14AM
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As Kimmsr mentioned, nitrogen can be a bit of a guessing game. On your test when they say 'N' do they mention on there somewhere if they are talking about nitrate (or it might say NO3) or ammoniacal (NH4) nitrogen? If not, then I would guess that they're combining the two.
If it's 4.7 ppm as the total amount that they measured, I wouldn't say that's exactly what's available in your soil but I would be perfectly comfortable using it as a general indication that nitrogen is probably low. Based on the CEC, I would say you'd be looking at about 55 ppm total available nitrogen as optimum. The coffee grounds and blood meal mentioned by bpgreen would do the trick. You would need a lot less of the bloodmeal but it is relatively fast release. I don't think either source of N would bother your worms.
I would stay away from manures for the time being because of their contributions of phosphorous and potassium. They've all got pretty good amounts, even chicken manure which is typically thought of as being primarily a nitrogen source.
Based on your results I would say your phosphorous should be somewhere around 40 ppm for optimum and 100 ppm max. It's pretty high right now at 230 ppm and could potentially inhibit the uptake of micronutrients. This is a particular concern for you because you've already got alkaline soil reaction working against micronutrient availability.
Your potassium is really quite high too at 670 ppm. I don't see it as a problem yet but if you bumped it up into the 900 to 1000 range, it could start competing with magnesium, leading to deficiencies of that nutrient.
In fact, I would say that nutrient wise, don't add anything but nitrogen for at least a year and probably longer.
I like their sulfur recommendation, which is intended to lower the pH and improve micronutrient availability. If you also have significant lime content in your soil, I would bump that up to 1.5 lbs. per 100 sq. ft. If possible, you should till it into 6 or 8 inches deep since it will only have an effect about as deep as you till it in. If it just gets thrown on the surface, it will only acidify the top centimeter or two of soil. If there are existing plants who's root systems would be chewed up by that, at least scratch it in with a rake and water it in deeply. If it's a turf area you can core aerate and then apply sulfur and then water thoroughly to move it into the holes.
Sodium, ESP and EC values are all down where you want them and require no action. The high Fl (fluoride) statement is interesting. I wonder how high it is. Are you on well water?

Keep in mind through all this that any symptoms that show on the plants can vary depending on the requirements of individual plants. Also a soil test gives you a general sense of what is going on and things will vary throughout the area.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 8:49AM
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That's a great bit of information you provided. The nitrogen report reads

nitrate-n, no3-n cd reduction 4.7 ppm

I water with mostly irrigation, pumped from a lake
Where is the best source to buy large quantities of bloodmeal? How much per 1000 sq ft would you suggest I use? The garden is about 75ft x 100 ft. Last, would you put the bloodmeal in this fall, or wait until spring?
Thanks again

    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 9:43PM
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Okay, so the lab is giving you nitrate only and the method they use is cd-reduction. (in case anyone cares, they're oxidizing nitrate (NO3) into nitrite (NO2) and measuring the total nitrite and reporting it as nitrate)
A lot of times they don't measure ammonium nitrogen since it isn't used nearly as much by plants (but they do use it a little and aquatic plants use it almost exclusively).
Your total available nitrogen will be higher than 4.7 ppm but I wouldn't guess by too much unless you've added something recently that has a lot of NH4 in it, like a biosolids compost.

I water with mostly irrigation, pumped from a lake
That makes sense. Fluoride will usually come from your water source. Although many municipalities add fluoride to their water, I've never seen it high enough in water or, consequently, soil to be a concern for plants when potable water is being used. I've only seen it at higher levels in irrigation ponds, lakes, wells, etc. We don't know exactly how high it is in the soil or water in your case but if the plants look good, don't sweat it. However, if you ever end up with burning foliage on some plants and you've ruled out everything else, fluoride toxicity might be another avenue to explore. The best way to nail that one down is through tissue analysis.

Where is the best source to buy large quantities of bloodmeal?
A farm supply store.

How much per 1000 sq ft would you suggest I use?
In any single application with bloodmeal I like to keep it at around 2 lbs. of actual N per 1000 sq. ft. (The lab's recommendation of 20 lbs. per 1000 seems awfully high....maybe there was a typo and it was actually saying 2 per 1000?). Bloodmeal usually has an analysis in the neighborhood of 12-0-0 so you would use about 125 lbs. for the whole garden at 7500 sq. ft. (Or about 16 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft..... 15 lbs. to make it easy).

would you put the bloodmeal in this fall, or wait until spring?
Where are you, what are you growing and when do you plan to plant?

    Bookmark   October 6, 2010 at 8:41AM
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they're oxidizing nitrate (NO3) into nitrite
I meant, "reducing" nitrate.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2010 at 9:05AM
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I'm in Northern Ariz at 7000 ft. I won't plant until June first as we get frost until then. I grow most common vegetables, Squash, tomatoes,cucs, etc. Where do you find bloodmeal besides Home depot or the garden store? Would feed stores have it in bulk?

    Bookmark   October 6, 2010 at 9:56AM
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I would just wait until spring and apply the bloodmeal at the time of planting.
A farm store is a good place to get a lot of bloodmeal. I've seen some feed stores that have it and some that don't. I guess you'll just have to call around in your area.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2010 at 8:39AM
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I'm inclined to agree with pippimac: if you have all that manure, just spread it on the garden thickly in the fall and plant in the spring!

I have a fair bit of old chicken manure myself and that's what I'm doing.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2010 at 2:07PM
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On the other hand.......

I was thinking about this today. The thing about anyone with a lot of chicken manure (or other poultry manure, usually, like turkey or goose or pheasants) is that it isn't composted. Even if it is "elderly," years old. Because we're getting it from our own or somebody's defunct chicken house, sometimes big ones as in the case of the thread parent, I would guess.

So while I DO use a lot more manure than most people seem comfortable with, even I am a little leery of pouring on huge amounts of uncomposted chicken manure. Though of course if it's fall, it will have all winter to digest.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 2:21PM
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I really appreciate all your input, it gives me a lot of variables to consider.
This chicken manure comes from a large commercial egg ranch in So. Ariz. I see it laid out in windrows on acres and acres of ground in the desert. It is rolled with a grader until they pelletize it. Most of their manure is going to a large organic farm. I plan to call them and see if it actually is composted with the way they handle it before selling it.
Thanks again for all your thoughts.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 2:25AM
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Earth worms can be run off by organic materials ??.
I have seen red worms in green/fresh cow,horse,pig & rabbit manures. As for wiggler/earth worms/night crawler, any well rotted material is fine for them. This is not a study, just what I have seen with my eyes. I think some of these book people, just want to sale another book & fill it with words.
I never had a problem finding worms of both kinds to fish with & we never worried about what the worms liked or wanted.The earth worms do like a higher pH for eggs to hatch, 6.5 or 7.0, like a lot of the vegetable crops.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2010 at 12:49PM
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There is information from the agricultural colleges concerning some fertilizers that may be harmful to worms. I've added a couple of quotes and their sources below. From what I've read, if a person resorts to adding nitrogen from a synthetic source the fertilizer urea would be a good choice.

There is good evidence that most inorganic fertilizers
favor the buildup of large numbers of earthworms,
probably due to the increased amounts of crop
residues being returned to the soil. Anhydrous
ammonia and ammonium sulfate have been found to
have negative effects on earthworms. This may be due
to the acidifying effect of this fertilizer, but also due
to the toxic effect of ammonia. Liming to neutralize
acidity stimulates earthworm activity.

Nitrogen is usually the limiting nutrient in a pile that doesn't heat up or decay quickly enough. Some purists do not recommend using commercial nitrogen fertilizers as an activator, but if you have some readily available, it may be helpful. Avoid using ammonium sulfate as it may be toxic to earthworms. Keep in mind that chemical fertilizers are not as effective as organic sources because they contain no protein.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2010 at 11:19PM
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boa144, thanks for the great links

    Bookmark   December 27, 2010 at 5:42PM
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