In our first year, we missed the opportunity to get manure delivered to our plot due to the sheer number of weeds and ground to cover. This made me far too overexcited when enough arrived to get it all done this year. That was, until I realised, I had to shift it all the way from the bottom to the top using a little shovel and my mums borrowed wheelbarrow…
The local farmer delivers tipper-truck-loads of cow manure to our allotment site for £30, which is much cheaper than buying bulk bags or compost and certainly less hassle than trying to haul this much in the back of my car. He waits until after the TB testing, so its often mid to late January before it all arrives.
Cow manure is one of the best manures for your veggie garden and has many more nutrients than the conventional horse manure. Cow manure contains 3 of the most important nutrients that plants need for their healthy growth – Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Now not all cow dung contains the exact same percentages of these nutrients, but research shows the amounts in fresh cow manure with bedding or litter are roughly 11 percent nitrogen, 4 percent phosphorus and 10 percent potassium. This is much better than horse manure and is perfect for leafy veg which is our main crop!
And the best part is that the beneficial bacteria in cow pats converts these essential nutrients into forms that are easily absorbed by plant roots. These nutrients are slowly infused into the soil allowing the plants to enjoy the benefits over longer periods. In the case of fresh cow manure, the moisture content is also high which helps to keep your watering costs to a minimum.
You should never put fresh manure directly on to any beds where you’re currently growing plants as you’ll soon find them dying off. This is called ‘burn’ and its one of the easiest ways to kill your veggies with kindness. Its best to leave it in a big pile for a couple of months to heat up and break down in to lovely crumbly compost.
Some of mine was already well broken down and some much fresher. There seemed to be lots of straw bedding in some areas too which will provide a home for some serious slug families.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a big enough area for a compost heap yet and it’ll be a good while before the weather here is good enough to plant anything out so I decided to spread it all direct. This will hopefully kill off all the small weeds below and keep my soil slightly warmer than it would have been otherwise, making for an early start to planting out.
Luckily, I have a lovely husband who would do anything for a quiet life, so I only had to spend two days there complaining about it before he finished the job off for me. He definitely earned his dinner that night.
So now that the two big beds are all covered and beautiful looking, I just need the snow and ice to come and break up some of the larger clods for me. I haven’t decided yet if I will dig it in or just plant directly in to it, but we will see how I feel later in the year. Some areas will be covered with weed membrane and sow through to reduce my weeding requirements – crops like pumpkins and squash seem to like this quite a lot – so they won’t need so much digging in as the worms will drag it all down in to the soil for me.
I had hoped to go “no-dig” this year, but the sheer amount of compost we would need every year is unrealistic for us so perhaps maybe on one bed and use the other bed as a pumpkin and flower patch? I suppose time will tell!
But doesn’t it look so pretty?!