Whether you prefer to grow flowers or vegetables in your garden, ensuring your soil is rich in nutrients is essential for growing healthy plants. There are a number of commercial fertilisers on the market, but they can be costly and some contain questionable ingredients. Using manure will keep your gardening costs down and it's a chemical-free option that's safe for kids and pets to be around. Here are a few benefits of using manure in your garden beds:
Manure is rich in the three key nutrients required for plant growth. Nitrogen supports leaf growth and healthy plant cells, potassium supports the development of strong stems and phosphorous is essential for healthy roots. In order for your plants to benefit from manure, you can till it into your soil in the autumn before planting in the spring, or you can mix it with compost and spread it on top of your beds. You should not spread manure that's not been mixed with compost directly on top of your beds, as it can be so rich in nitrogen that it can burn the stems of young plants.
In addition to adding nutrients to your soil, manure can improve the condition of your soil, which in turn can help you have a more successful growing season. When manure is mixed into light sandy soil, it can improve moisture levels and prevent soil drying out too quickly in the heat of summer. If your soil is heavy and compacted, the addition of manure can loosen the soil, which allows roots to grow down and easily absorb nutrients.
Manure can also be used as inexpensive mulch during the growing season; just ensure you leave a few centimetres of bare soil around each plant to protect the stems. Manure mulch will regulate soil temperatures and prevent damage to roots that can occur when the soil is too cold. It will also suppress weed growth and allow sufficient water to penetrate the soil without allowing your beds to become waterlogged.
You can find a variety of different manures, such as cow, chicken and horse, at your local garden centre or online garden supply store. If you're unsure of the best type for the plants you intend on growing or don't know how much to buy to cover your growing area, ask an instore gardener for some guidance. They can show you samples of different varieties and calculate quantities if you provide them with measurements.
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