2012 Harvest

2012 Harvest

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fertilizing the Garden

If you want to ensure a decent yielding garden year after year, you have to continually feed your soil with organic matter to help replenish the nutrients that were taken out of the ground in previous years. This year we are trying a few different methods to test which one yields the best result. We'll have a portion of the garden fertilized with Horse manure, a portion fertilized with Mushroom Compost, and another portion with a granulated fertilizer. All have their own benefits and disadvantages, but we'll share our experience with each of them and of course as the season progresses, how each performed in the garden.

Horse Manure:

Horse Manure mixed with Pine Shavings

Horse manure may scare off some small gardeners, but if it has been composted properly it is really very easy to work with and has hardly any odor. Unfortunately, we don't have the space for any large animals, so we found this manure from an ad on craigslist. During most times of the year you can find free manure on craigslist. The farm we got ours from had been mixed with some hay and pine shavings. The manure had been composted for about three months and had a very mild odor to it. The farmer suggested we let the sun beat down on it for a few weeks before we tilled it under, as it would help minimize any unwanted acidity that wood shavings can sometimes add to your soil.  Here is a great article that goes into a bit more detail with the different types of animal manure and the benefits it can provide to your garden.

Section of Garden with Horse Manure

Mushroom Compost:

Mushroom Compost

After reading a few articles online about mushroom compost, I was very hesitant to use it on our garden. Like most things on the Internet, I found a number of articles warning against using mushroom compost, and a number of articles stating its benefits to the garden if used properly. Ultimately, I decided to purchase two truck loads of mushroom compost ($50). 

I am as cheap as they come and would have much preferred using free manure, but unfortunately the farmer I got it from was all out of the composted manure and I didn't want to put fresh manure on the garden this close to the planting season. At the same time, I knew if I didn't replenish the nutrients in the soil I'd inevitably get diminishing yields. Spending $50 on soil is not something I'm happy about, but hopefully the compost will add some physical benefits to the soil beyond this coming planting season, and until I get some horses or cattle of my own, this will have to do.  

For those of you worried about pesticide residue from the spent mushroom soil as I was, here is some information from a professor at Penn State that eased some of those concerns for me. I'm not an organic crazy or anything, but I definitely want to avoid having pesticides in my garden. 

We plan on letting the Manure and Mushroom Compost sit for a few weeks before tilling them into the soil. Our goal is to have the garden tilled by April 6th, but that could change depending upon the weather. 

Fertilized Garden