The composition of ingested foods is changed as they pass through the digestive tracts of animals. Freshly obtained manure contains elevated proportions of ammonia and, to some extent this is the reason why fresh manure has such a pungent smell. In addition, ammonia contains elevated amounts of nitrogen, which is easily available to the plants when we use manure. However, immediately after ammonia comes in contact with the air, it begins to evaporate and much of its nitrogen content is taken up by the atmosphere. Apart from this, rain also washes away much of the nitrogen content of ammonia. Therefore, freshly obtained manure, which is an excellent source of nitrogen, is an excellent fertilizer compared to old manure that has been exposed to the atmospheric conditions for long. Nevertheless, even the old manure is valuable for the plants for its organic content. Hence, a good and experienced farmer will usually use up the fresh manure quickly by mixing it with the soil even before its nitrogen content is lost to the environment.
Here is a word of advice – be cautious while dealing with freshly obtained manure. The ammonia released from the manure is often a hazard to the plants. In fact, all plants are hungry for nitrogen and will take up this element all the time whenever it is available. When you apply fresh manure close to the plant’s roots, it releases a large amount of nitrogen. On its part, the plant will be able to deal with this excessive supply of nitrogen, provided the water supply is adequate. On the other hand, if the water supply is not adequate, the nitrogen released by fresh manure will turn into salts inside the tissues of the plant. This, in turn, will result in burning up the plant. In addition, manure also contains something that is considered to be a nuisance for the gardeners – weeds. In fact, when animals consume anything that contains weeds, many of them pass through without causing any harm to them. However, when the manure is put into the soil, weeds find an ideal place to flourish, as they readily derive their required nutrition from the soil.
If you wish to make the optimal use of manure, you will require converting its nitrogen content to a further steady form and, at the same time, get rid of the problems related to weed seeds. Hence, the solution is to use the manure to produce compost.
The Miracle of Compost
Gardeners who are familiar with the process to make inclusive and balanced compost, they will not be requiring any other food for their plants. In fact, compost that is well prepared ought to enclose all the nutrients that are required by plants for healthy growth. Complete and balanced compost is one that will enclose bacteria, fungi as well as other microscopic organisms that will serve to keep the diseases in the soil in check and, at the same time, supply the plants with helpful organic substances.
Striking a good balance between carbon and nitrogen is extremely vital in making good compost. Bacteria present in compost mass feed on the carbon content of the organic substance and help to convert the carbon into energy. In order to convert the carbon into energy, bacteria in the organic pile need nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus as well as additional elements. While the organic substance contains both potassium and phosphorus, usually the supply of nitrogen is less in compost, as much of it is lost to the environment when manure, from which compost is made, is exposed to the atmosphere. Therefore, nitrogen should be added to the pile.
Most people who make their own compost usually use fresh manure as their source for nitrogen for supplying it to their plants. However, fresh manure is not available in all places and always. However, this is not a problem, as your local animal feed stores sell several items that are rich in nitrogen. You can readily purchase these materials, which include cottonseed meal, soya meal, bone meal, blood meal as well as feather meal. In case you reside close to the sea, you may also get fish waste or shellfish waste. Any of these organic substances or any other substance that is similar to these and is rich in protein content supplies the amount of nitrogen that is necessary to make your complete compost.
It is vital to achieving a balance between the nitrogen and carbon content of the mass. For the uninitiated, the right proportion for the best possible compost action is 30 parts of carbon to one part of nitrogen. The guideline provided below will help you to strike the right balance between the carbon and nitrogen content of a compost pile.
Irrespective of whether you are using manure or any animal feed you have purchased from the market as the organic source for making compost spread it into a stratum that is roughly 1 foot (30 cm) thick. Your organic material may include substances like vegetable peeling, old hay, weeds or even leaves, if possibly, shredded ones. In addition, spread fresh manure in a layer about 3 inches (8 cm) thick. In case you cannot avail manure, you may place a slender layer of any organic source with nitrogen content that you may get. Moreover, if you cannot get any organic source with nitrogen content, you may intersperse any fertilizer with high nitrogen content like urea (42-0-0) very evenly on the organic matter you have. Having done this, sprinkle some shovelful of soil over the entire pile. The earth you place over the organic materials will contain sufficient soil bacteria that will work to start the breakdown process. However, several experts feel that adding earth to the organic materials is not necessary. On the other hand, if you desire high pH (sweet) compost, you may add one shovelful of lime to the organic pile. Continue doing this layering process till the pile reaches a height of 4 feet (1.2 meters). While you are adding more organic matter in each layer, ensure that you also add an adequate amount of water to make the compost pile quite moist, but it should not be sodden.
When you have completed making the pile up to your desired height, turn the pile at regular intervals. When you turn a compost pile it helps to add oxygen to the heap. In fact, the oxygen added to the pile in this manner is very important, as it helps the bacteria to remain active. It has often been found that many compost piles never breakdown owing to the absence of oxygen in these heaps. Therefore, it is best to turn the compost pile once either every day or in two days. However, your compost will still work well if you are able to turn it at least once every week or a fortnight.
After you have turned the compost heap for a couple of times, the pile will be steaming hot within. The temperature inside the compost heat may reach up to 160°F (72°C) if it is properly aerated as well as balanced. Such high temperatures are beneficial in several ways – they not only eliminate the weed seeds but also destroy all harmful diseases that may be contained by any of the organic materials used in the compost heap. While making compost, it is important to bear in mind that the size of the compost pile is not of foremost importance. In fact, even a relatively smaller compost heap will work wonderfully provided the balance of nitrogen and carbon in it is good. Moreover, you should ensure that the compost pile is never soggy and you turn it at regular intervals. In case you do not have sufficient space for making compost or neatness is a major worry for you, you may opt for any of the several compost makers that are available in the market and can be used without much difficulty.
After the compost pile cools down, you can apply it to the plants. Once the compost is placed in the garden, it will keep breaking down and in the process, the compost pile will gradually release nitrogen as well as other valuable elements that are essential for your plants. If the compost you have made is limited, use it in the form of a side dressing in the region of your plants. Alternatively, you may also use some of it in the planting holes. On the other hand, if you have an adequate supply of the compost, you may utilize it in the form of a common top dressing all over your rose garden. If you decide to make and use compost as a routine process for your garden, the benefits will be visible to you soon. Using balanced and complete composts in your garden will not only result in the healthy growth of the plants but also help you to produce healthy and attractive roses.