Jul 20 2009

Tomato Alert: Late Blight Fungus


Bad news for tomato growers and gardeners throughout the East. Late blight fungus is spreading wide — “explosively” according to the USDA — and destroying whole crops. Link to an article below. A reminder that tomatoes in the garden require good hygiene. If there’s any doubt at all, do NOT compost your tomato vines. These things are nasty and highly contagious, even season to season.

New York Times article on late blight fungus

Mar 12 2009

On Manure


Ah, manure! That glorious, odoriferous, precious shit that is both the beginning and end of the food production cycle. Securing a supply of suitable shit is a holy crusade for the organic gardening purist. And once we’re hooked up, we’re very selfish and protective of our sources. So don’t even ask!

The best option, of course, is to have your own supply handy, as I did when I had my own chickens and someone else’s cows on the farm in Taneytown (sigh). But we won’t be getting chickens here in Sykesville until next year.

I’ve used several different kinds of manure over the years, and have enjoyed stimulating conversations on the topic with fellow gardeners and farmers. Here’s what I know:

To compost or not: The safest bet is always to pile it up and let it age; that way, there is no danger of burning the plants with too much nitrogen. But this is not always a practical option. Often, you just can’t wait. You just have to spread the shit.

When to apply (uncomposted): Ideally, spread it on in the Fall, till it in lightly, and by Spring it will have broken down and the nutrients will be ready for uptake by your plants. Alternatively, as we have done (mostly) with this new garden, a lighter layer applied in the Spring and tilled in will do the trick. Not too much, though, or you’ll get burned. You can use composted manure anytime without worries.

During the season: If you have composted manure, or make up a manure tea, you can apply it in the holes before you plant, and use it as a side-dressing throughout the season. (More on in-season fertilizing in another post.)

We’ve done all with this garden so far: We manured part of it in the Fall, the rest over the past several weekends, and we have a nice pile in the back of the yard cooking for later use.

As far as types of manure go:

Horse: This is my favorite, especially when the horses are bedded in sawdust (vs. straw), as is the case with most of the manure we’ve scored. It breaks down quickly, the sawdust absorbs many times its weight in urine, and it also enhances the tilth of the soil nicely http://blogs.asburyseminary.edu/blog/over-the-counter-viagra.html. If not in sawdust, horse manure will be in straw, which is fine, but it takes longer to break down. In general, it’s rare to get burned with horse.

Cow: Good stuff but sloppy. Best when composted, but if you can handle it, a light layer of fresh can be safely worked right into the garden.

Chicken: Hot stuff! As in, high nitrogen, danger of burning the plants. It’s great, though, adding tremendous fertility for its weight (perhaps the highest ratio, though that’s just my conjecture), but by all means, compost it for a season first.

Pig: Never used it, but have heard it’s high in fertility, and probably best not used fresh.

Human: Yuck. Believe it or not, there is an “operation” on Route 407 between New Windsor and Taylorsville that I am is convinced is spreading human shit on the fields. It’s the worst thing you could ever smell. I know that landscapers use it. But keep it out of my garden…and yours!

Speaking of smell, my assessment of least-to-worst smelling manures:

5.  Horse

4.  Cow

3.  Pig

2.  Chicken

1.  Human