Plants will love dark, crumbly black gold

Country Smallholding - - Ask The Experts -

Q I have re­cently moved into my first house and have four hens in my back gar­den. I’m re­ally ex­cited at the prospect of grow­ing my own food and have pur­chased some plants. When I looked at the la­bels, the de­scrip­tion says to add well-rot­ted ma­nure. How does chicken poo ac­tu­ally be­come well-rot­ted ma­nure that I can use to fer­tilise my plants?

A Julie Moore says: Poul­try ma­nure has long been re­garded as the most de­sir­able an­i­mal ma­nure be­cause of its high ni­tro­gen con­tent. Fresh drop­pings, re­ferred to as hot ma­nure should never be used in the gar­den in its raw state and it must be com­posted first. Fresh ma­nure may burn plant roots and seedlings or make peren­ni­als grow so fast that they be­come thin and weedy. Col­lect the poul­try ma­nure daily — not only will this keep the coop clean, but you will be able to see any signs of ill­ness in your flock. Turn­ing your col­lected drop­pings into black gold to fer­tilise and im­prove soil struc­ture is easy as the same prin­ci­ples ap­ply to com­post­ing chicken ma­nure as to any other or­ganic ma­te­rial. You will need a com­post bin which is eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble, placed in a semi-shaded po­si­tion with ei­ther a lid or cover. Chicken drop­pings fall into the green or ni­tro­gen-rich cat­e­gory and work as an ac­ti­va­tor to get the com­post started. Ide­ally, you’ll need a mix of greens and browns by vol­ume. Browns are car­bon­rich, slow rot­ting in­gre­di­ents such as card­board and woody prun­ings. It should take be­tween six to nine months to com­post ma­nure, de­pend­ing on whether or not you reg­u­larly turn the pile. At the end, you will have black gold — a dark, crumbly and earthy-smelling ma­te­rial that your plants and crops will love.

It should take be­tween six to nine months to com­post ma­nure. At the end, you will have ‘black gold’ that your plants will love.

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