Picking up the pieces

Two tomato plants, in the small bed by the back door, decided to make their move sometime during the autumn. They’d been spindly little things all summer, then suddenly they were bushes, flowered and started to grow fruit in late October. Sadly, the plants also started to die in November.

Just as well, as I wanted to use this bed for the remainder of the garlic cloves left from planting on the other side of the patio in the lasagne bed. I still have not, however, got round to doing more than cut the tomato plants down, which turns out to have been fortuitous laziness.

Whilst I was at the local organic farm, collecting the latest provisions, the farmer was around, so we got talking. This included the topic of horse manure, which she urged me not to use because of the vermicide given to to deworm horses.

Years ago, I had decided not to use horse manure but relented when I saw the stables en route to the raw milk farm we go to once a fortnight. Throwing caution to the wind, there are now approx forty 50l bags of manure from these stables strewn around the garden and stuffed in the three compost bins. There is also a dearth of worms in the bins, which I had already been puzzled by.

Now, without doing a controlled experiment, it is hard to know if the manure is the cause of this phenomenon. Besides, it is a bit late to remove most of it, so all I can do, moving forward, is take up the farmer’s offer of cow, sheep and pig manure, free if I am prepared to bag it myself.

In the meantime, the garlic in the lasagne bed continues to shoot (eleven I counted today) and it will be interesting to see the results next summer. Whether or not there will be any worms to incorporate the manure into the soil remains to be seen as well.

About Helen

I have always been interesting in living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and used to do what I could. Now, I have come to realise that we have reached such a point in terms of environmental degradation that it is more important - perhaps - to focus on building resilience. I therefore do as much as I can to reuse, grow my own and encourage a supportive community, for example. I also keep reading and learning all the time.
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14 Responses to Picking up the pieces

  1. Alas, poor confused tomatoes

  2. nanacathy2 says:

    I didn’t know that about horse manure- I would argue against cow manure, as it was responsible for introducing couch grass into our last garden.

  3. I am still picking tomatoes although they are not the best even in the greenhouses. I think any manure can introduce weeds but hadn’t heard about the chemical in horse manure. I get cow muck from the organic farm up the road which is probably the best option here. My garden certainly needs something nutritious on it!

    • Helen says:

      I’m sure the organic cow manure must be very good for your garden. Also, I’d have thought that with its four stomachs, what comes out the other end of a cow must already be in a fine state for decomposition. What kind of soil do you have?

      • Over most of the garden it is compacted shale with a very thin layer of soil on top from fallen leaves etc. In the raised beds we made soil by piling in anything that would rot – newspapers, peelings, leaves, garden waste – with a thin layer of bought or home-made compost on top. Over the years that soil, which I think must be acidic as buttercups and rhododendrons thrive!, has decomposed so it is thin and has become exhausted but manure was hard to come by. Now I have a source everywhere is gradually being built up again.

  4. Carole says:

    Hi Helen, I hadn’t thought about that potential problem with horse manure, but I just did a bit of a search and found this blog article which was quite reassuring https://www.redwormcomposting.com/worm-farming/how-harmful-are-vermicides-in-manure/ The manure that I get is well rotted on an outdoor heap, and the worms seem happy in there!

    • Helen says:

      Thanks very much, Carole. From reading the article, it would appear that I should avoid putting relatively fresh manure in my food composting hot bin, since this is a closed system and made of plastic. It’s probably the high levels of ammonia rather than the vermicide which is killing off the worms, though.

      On the other hand, the manure I’ve stuffed in the open bin might temporarily have affected this heap but the worms will come back once the manure has matured. As for the stuff I put directly on the soil, I should imagine this will have little if any effect, even if the manure is fresh. I’m not digging it in, so the worms are likely to avoid it on the soil surface till it is no longer giving off ammonia.

      So, bearing this and your personal experiences in mind, all will be well. I’ll just avoid adding manure of any kind to the food composter unless it is well rotted 😊.

  5. gaiainaction says:

    I never knew this about horse manure and it is good information. I only ever use seaweed fertilizer which I get locally in a garden centre. I have no access to any other manure except if I wanted, horse manure would be available. I won’t even consider that now though. Thanks Helen.

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