horse and cow manure to composts
was very interested in your article on composts. I live on a dairy
farm at Pukehina and what I would like to know is how long do you
leave a compost heap before it is considered good enough to use
in the garden? I have also heard that it is good to soak cow and
horse manure for about three weeks as this kills the seeds in the
manure. What ratio of cow manure should I use to water?
is ready anywhere from two to six weeks depending upon how warm
it is and how you make your compost. Horse and cow manure can only
be used when it has composted for several weeks as it will burn
plants if used fresh. Soaking it in water for several weeks helps
to dilute it it is up to you how much you use. As long as
it is liquid, you can use it.
How to make compost
There is no set recipe
when making compost but there are living micro-organisms
involved. When these organisms are provided with ideal conditions
and they do most of the work.
Choose an area approximately
1 metre by 1 metre, sheltered from the sun, wind, and rain. The
soil should be well drained. The compost bin needs to be well covered
so pests will not become a problem. Choose a compost bin that suits
your situation. There are many reasonably priced plastic or wooden
compost bins on the market.
Lightly fork over the
area the bin is to be situated. Add chopped-up coarse garden material
which improves aeration and drainage. Air and moisture are very
important for the micro-organisms to break down the organic material.
If there is not enough moisture, water will need to be added, but
care must be taken not to over-water. If there is too much water,
the compost will be sloppy, smelly and will compact down.
Build up the compost
in layers. The bottom layer is coarse garden material followed by
a layer of vegetable peelings, grass clippings or plant material.
Sprinkle each layer with "Compost Maker". This helps speed up the
decomposition process, increasing the heat generated within the
compost heap. Add a 1-2 cm layer of soil on top of this. Repeat
the process until the heap is about 1 metre high.
After about two weeks
the heap will cool down. Turn the compost over to increase the aeration
and speed up the composting process. Place the outside material
towards the middle of the heap. Water can be added if the compost
is dry. The turning process is made much easier if there are two
compost bins to transfer compost from one bin to the other. The
heap can be turned in another two weeks. Turning is not absolutely
necessary, but when the heap is not turned, the compost on the outer
edges does not decompose properly. Incompletely decomposed material
should not be used on the garden, but can be cut away with a spade
and kept separately for later use when starting a new heap.
Depending upon the time
of year, compost can be ready any time from two months to five
in summer the process is much more rapid than in winter. The compost
heap is ready to use when it cools down completely and does not
get hot after turning over. If the compost still has heat in it
and is applied to the garden, it can do irreparable damage to young
Your compost should be
crumbly, dark brown to black in colour, with a pleasant earthy musty
smell. Spread it around flowering plants, vegetables, ornamental
shrubs and roses, working it into the soil.
Only use material from
healthy plants in the compost heap. Diseased material and invasive
plants like dock seed heads, dandelion roots, couch, and oxalis
should not be used as they may survive the composting process to
re-establish in the garden later. Avoid putting rose prunings in
the compost, they should be burnt instead to prevent the spread
of fungus diseases.
If all of this sounds
like hard work, or you don't generate enough waste to justify allocating
a corner of the garden to a compost heap, there is always bagged
compost available at your local garden centre. It is recycled waste
from transfer stations in your local area. You will still be helping
the recycling cause!
by Dr Dan Blanchon from Unitec's Diploma in Sustainable Horticulture and Bachelor
of Resource Management.
with permission from NZOOM Home and Garden content,
from the previous
The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH