Composting of F.Y.M. and Peat
The quality of farmyard manure varies according to the kind of food the animals have been eating. Animals fed on rich food produce a richer dung, but breeding animals and those with young retain more of the nutrients in their food, to the detriment of the manure.
Old manure which has been stacked for several months is richer than fresh manure and the nutrients are more readily available. Although farmyard manure is purchased mainly for its humus-forming properties, it supplies plant nutrients. One ton will give about 10 lb. Nitrogen, 5 lb. Phosphoric acid and 10 lb. Potash, much of which is accessible to plants soon after application. Make allowances for these nutrients when working out fertilizer plans.
F.Y.M. also contains quite large amounts of magnesium and calcium and all the trace elements. A good dressing of farmyard manure will remain active for at least three years and probably longer. But after buying it do not leave it in loose heaps; make a solid compact pile, well trampled down, with the centre higher than the edges. This will cut losses to the minimum. But even with the best storage, one-third by bulk will be lost in the first three months of storage, since organisms convert some of the dry matter into gases which blow away.
APPLICATION OF F.Y.M.
F.Y.M. Is used to its best advantage when mixed in the top-by forking or rotary cultivation. If plenty is available lay it in the bottom of the trench when digging, but do not apply more than can be dug in at any given time. To give a really good dressing, completely cover the ground with a 2- to 3-in. layer which is equal to about 10 to 15 lb., or a good bucketful, per sq. yd. Composted stable manure can be bought in bags weighing between 80 and 90 lb. It is easier to handle, and mixes better with the soil.
Poultry and pigeon manures are at least four times as strong as stable manure, but supply very little humus. They tend to make clay stickier and acid. Poultry manure can be used fresh, but is better stored. It should be dried by mixing it with half its bulk of fine dry soil and sand, and can be used for top dressing growing crops. Always keep it under cover to avoid loss of nutrients in the rain. About 5 lb. of the mixture should be sufficient for 1 sq. yd.
If trouble is taken to dry the droppings on a metal plate over the greenhouse boiler, a high-grade fertilizer will be obtained. Apply this after crushing at the rate of 4 to 8 oz. per sq. yd. Well in advance of sowing, or as a top dressing. The potash content of poultry manure is low and is best balanced by adding I part by weight of sulphate of potash to 12 parts by weight of dried poultry manure.
Peat is a useful alternative to F.Y.M. although it may contain twice as much nitrogen as F.Y.M., most of the nitrogen is inaccessible to plants. The phosphate and potash content is usually one-tenth that of farmyard manure. It can only be regarded, therefore, as a soil conditioner and not as a fertilizer. It breaks down more slowly than F.Y.M., keeping the soil loose and thereby improving the aeration and drainage. As peat is weed-free and easy to spread it is more convenient to use than farmyard manure, particularly in the greenhouse. A natural supply of peat is rarely at hand and a nurseryman must be relied on to provide it. Such peat may be either sedge or moss. The only way to find out which is best is to try both types on the garden and watch the results. It is safe to buy from a well-known peat firm. But there is good and bad peat. Bad peat is black, greasy, and becomes porridge-like when wetted, whereas the best types are brown and spongy or fibrous. Peat can be bought in bales or loose in plastic or paper bags in quantities of up to 1/2 cwt.
APPLICATION OF PEAT
For digging, 1/2 to l bushel or 3 to 6 lb. per sq. yd. of peat are needed to give a good covering. For potting composts it is usually mixed with loam and sand according to the John Innes specification. Never apply dry peat to the soil; it-will merely take up the moisture so badly needed by plants. Dry peat swells in potting composts and upsets the firm potting of the plants or. If spread thinly on the soil surface or on the potting bench, it can be moistened with a can fitted with a rose. A coarse grade, with large particles, is best for a sandy soil and a fine grade for a clay soil.
Composting is the pre-digestion or partial decomposition of organic residues. There are several methods of, as Well-made is equal in value to F.Y.M. And is used at the same rate.
Spent hops, which may be obtained from breweries, are useful for improving the physical condition of the soil, but are low in nutrients. In a wet state they contain about as much nitrogen as F.Y.M. (0-5 to 0-6 per cent) and from two to four times as much phosphates (1 to 2 per cent P2O5) but they contain only traces of potash. Their nutrient content can be improved by mixing them with National
Growmore Fertilizer or other suitable compounds. Alternatively, the nurseryman will supply a branded hop manure — spent hops reinforced with fertilizers. This can be obtained either in wet or dry forms. Use the dry forms on heavy soils. Apply at the rate of to 1 lb. per sq. yd. Bury the manure immediately after application to prevent attacks by slugs and vermin.