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How long do you 'age' fresh manure?

Posted by gamebird 6 (My Page) on
Tue, Apr 22, 08 at 21:35

They say that before adding manure to your soil, it should be aged. Is there any particular method to aging? How long should it be aged?

My situation is that I have a one acre lot that we're having a house built on. The soil is clay loam with a 1.4% organic matter content. I'm in Oklahoma right now and due to this winter's ice storm, there's a lot of chipped wood I can get for free (or at least, for the effort of going to pick it up). I plan to rototill in a lot of wood chips and some high nitrogen fertilizer.

I am going to explore getting some manure, but I figure the only stuff easily available will be fresh stuff. I can pile it on the property for most of a year and let it decay, or it would be easier to till it in right away. Getting the amount of compost I need is cost prohibitive. I will be setting up a compost pile as soon as I move there, which will be a month or two from now.

If I can get some fresh manure, how do I handle it?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: How long do you 'age' fresh manure?

Is this for a lawn or for a garden?

Straight stuff - 6 months before use. Mixed in with lots of carbons such as straw and is cooking - then 3 months is usually enough given some attention to turning the pile. But if you aren't going to be planting in it for a year, right? then it will be fine. IMO it will be easier to till in once it has aged - it gets powdery. ;)

But all these consideration are for using it for produce. If this is all for growing just grass then grass can handle it much sooner than flowers or a produce garden can so we need to clarify that point.

Wood chips - If a garden area then I wouldn't till it in - just spread it on top of the soil where the garden will be and let the soil do the work on it. Till what's left of it in later.


RE: How long do you 'age' fresh manure?

Right now the back yard is 150x180 feet of flat land. Once upon a time, probably last year, it was prairie land/cattle pasture. Then it was fenced off, brush hogged and churned/graded such that very little of consequence is growing on it - a few incredibly tough weeds and some struggling bits of prairie grass. It's unshaded and has no trees. It's a blank canvas.

The building plan is that in about a month, they'll come through and grade for better drainage. I'm not sure if I should incorporate my "general" amendments before or after the grading. I put "general" in quotes because I have two classes of soil amendments. One are the cheap ones that cost only my time to get them and my time to operate machinery to get them incorporated. Those are the general amendments. The specific ones are things that cost money, like a 50/50 soil and compost mix for the raised beds in the garden.

Most of the yard will be lawn. Around the edges I intend to put flower beds, or at least some shrubs. Somewhere we will plant a few rows of small fruit trees (peaches, dwarf apples, etc.) Somewhere else we will plant several rows of fruiting vines/shrubs/brambles/canes (blackberries, blueberries, etc.) Closer in towards the house I will be putting in a 45x75 vegetable garden. And we'll plant one or two future shade trees (most likely one in front yard, one in back).

This will be my only opportunity to do a general amendment of the entire body of soil. If I don't get stuff in the ground in the next two months, then there will be sod laid directly around the house. That will limit general applications.

I probably won't be planting anything with the intention of harvesting (other than in containers) until next spring. It is my intention to build raised beds of railroad ties within the 45x75 garden area and then fill those beds with a good top soil/compost mix I've found at a local supplier. I'll do that this summer, or fall. Or maybe just do some of the beds instead of all of them, since the compost and railroad ties cost money.

So before I started asking my aunt about her friend who has horses, or the neighbor who has horses, or the various locals who have cattle... about the availability of their manure, I wanted to find out whether I could put it in the soil immediately or if I'd have to leave it piled up for a while. I'm sure the neighbors would be thrilled to have to deal with a humungous pile of my crap before I even managed to move in! So I'm pleased to hear that immediate tilling into the soil wouldn't hurt anything.

Any other suggestions you have for my situation, I'd be happy to hear/read.

RE: How long do you 'age' fresh manure?

It would be pretty hard to give you a time for how long to age an arbitrary pile of compost. You'll know when it's done by its texture.

I'm a little surprised to hear that you're only putting in two shade trees. I live on an acre and I have planted 11 trees to add to the 20 or so trees already on this place. The leaves from your trees will provide the best possible organic material for your gardens.

I wouldn't attempt to till in raw wood chips. Save messing with the wood chips until after you have moved in. You'll probably want to windrow them for a year or more.

Set up your compost bins and piles next to the garden. If you're planting sod (or, better yet, hydroseeding the lawn) you can feed it after it starts growing. That will be a little less work than trying to till/turn organic material into the soil before seeding/sodding.

Can you tell by texture and smell if the cow manure is ready for

I live in a sort of oasis in the desert, but the raw soil is clay. I'm hoping to enrich it by tilling cow maure in it. I have no idea how old it is, but it's dry and the smell isn't as intense as the fresh. Other than doing a Ph soil test, what signs can I look for to indicate the base soil is ready for some compost, topsoil, and my veggies?

Another is, is this a successful plan in cultivating my garden? (It's my first garden)

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