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Each spring gardeners load their soil up with composts and manures. But of the many products available, which is best for your garden and its specific needs?
Each spring gardeners load their soil up with composts and manures. But of the many products available, which is best for your garden and its specific needs? Use this quick reference to help decide what to add to your garden. Purchase manure and compost that is well aged and preferably screened. Good-quality products are composted at high temperatures, ensuring they won’t burn plants and will be free of diseases and viable weed seeds.
Steer manure (.7-.3-.4): Its claim to fame is improving the structure of the soil. Suitable for all applications in the garden, steer manure is a “cool” manure, meaning it releases heat and nitrogen slowly and therefore there is little chance of it burning the plants. Excellent for shallow-rooted plants such as azaleas, rhodos, and camellias.
Mushroom compost (2-0.4-2.4): Rich in organic matter, this manure has been used for growing mushrooms. As it is more on the neutral side, keep it away from any acid-loving plants. Use in the vegetable garden and on roses, lavender, clematis and rosemary.
Chicken manure (1.1-.8-.5): This has the highest nutrients of any manure. Use in vegetable gardens, annual containers and as an annual top-dressing for the lawn. To prevent burning plant roots, ensure it has been composted for a minimum of one year, keeping it covered with plastic to prevent leaching of the valuable nutrients. Apply it lightly around shallow-rooted plants.
Fish compost (1.7-1.5-6): Available at garden centres, this can be used as a soil amendment or mulch. Slightly acidic and full of trace elements, micronutrients and minerals, it is excellent for blueberries and rhododendrons.
Worm castings (3.2-1.1-1.5): These fertile castings contain vital nutrients and are an excellent way to increase the water-holding capacity of the soil. It’s great in the vegetable garden, and you can add some to the compost to make it more nutritious and break down faster.
Rabbit manure (2.5-1.5-.5): This is high in nitrogen and phosphorus, encouraging healthy foliage, strong roots and plentiful flowers. Use in all areas of the garden.
Llama manure (1.8-.5-1.6): According to David Tarrant, many gardeners consider the finest manure for the garden to be that of the llama. It has a fine texture, and its natural “pelleted” form aids in its slow release, reducing any chance of burning to garden plants. It has loads of trace elements and minerals, as well as plenty of nitrogen and potassium. Add to the garden, compost or use to create a garden tea. Special thanks to David for this tip! The rule for using composts or manures is to add 1 part to every 2 or 3 parts of your soil when digging a planting hole or garden. Never apply mulch more than 5 cm (2 in.) deep. Where growing carrots, turnips, parsnips or similar root vegetables, reduce the amount of manure to 1 part manure to every 6 parts existing garden soil; this will discourage “hairy” roots.