Volume 16, Issue 29 - July 17 - July 23, 2008

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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Frank Gouin

From Horse to Garden

You’ve got to compost horse manure before it’s anything but trouble

No, I told my questioner. It is not a good idea to add fresh horse manure to the garden. Horse manure is not only full of weed seeds, but it also robs the soil of nitrogen.

Horses do not have digestive systems as good as cows, pigs and chickens. The term hay burner is most appropriate for horses because they must consume much hay and grasses to extract their nutritional needs.

The nutritional value of horse manure is about equal to that of fallen leaves in October. The only advantage horse manure has is that it is enriched with bacteria making it easier to compost than leaves.

Before horse manure is applied to a garden, it should be composted. If the manure contains sawdust or shavings, it will require at least a year to compost. If the manure has straw or hay as bedding material, it can become compost in about six months. The more bedding material is included in the manure, the longer it will take to compost. Pure horse manure can be composted in about three months.

For success in composting horse manure, keep it moist and turn it at least twice each month. Build the composting pile no more than eight feet high and not over 10 feet wide. Temperatures in the pile should reach 140 degrees to kill the weed seeds. Even higher temperatures are better. Once there are no recognizable particles in the compost and temperatures in the pile stabilize to the warmth of the ambient air, two to three days after turning, it is ready to use.

Horse manure compost can be used as a soil amendment or as mulch. Matter of fact, compost makes the best mulch there is. It not only looks attractive but also feeds the plants. Wood mulches do not contribute to the nutritional needs of plants. Furthermore, compost does not build up around plants from repeated applications.

Destroying Noxious Plants

Q The house I live in was let go for a while, and I find the would-be gardens overrun with a combination of poison ivy, painful nettles and vinca. How can I get rid of these (I’ll be happy with just killing the poison ivy). The poison ivy is also climbing trees and the side of the house.

–Becky Gurshman, Chesapeake Beach

A Use Roundup at the recommended rate and add one rounded teaspoon of ammonium sulfate per gallon of spray. Do most of your spraying in early July providing the plants are not drought stressed. If the plants are drought stressed, irrigate well at least one week prior to spraying.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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