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Where the heck do I get manure from? Or other suggestions on how to "bulk up"/ improve my allotment soil?

(17 Posts)
justkeeponsmiling Fri 07-Mar-14 20:33:00

So... a couple of years ago I started digging over a patch of land in the field behind the house to grow some veggies. It has been, and in parts still is a really heavy job as the ground is full, and I mean really, really full of stones, from small pebbles to rocks as big as my head. I have managed to dig down to about 1 1/2 spade depth and the remaining soil is not totally but reasonably stone-free and quite heavy. I have been trying to dig in as much compost and garden waste/leaves/grass cuttings as possible but the soil still needs to get a lot less heavy (sorry, no idea what the technical term is?!) and I also think I need to bulk it up quite a bit - I don't think a spade and a half depth is enough and so I have added a wooden border around the beds ready to raise the height a bit.
So, I've been looking at the best and cheapest options to do this. Am I right in thinking that manure would be good? And if so: where on earth do I get it from? (Excuse the pun... smile ) Those tinchy bags from the garden centre are not really an option, as I've dug over quite a large area so it wouod cost me a fortune...
Also: should I get rid of all the stones? Will my veg grow better in completely pebble-free soil?
Sorry, as you can tell I'm a complete novice and any advice would be greatly appreciated!

SteamboatSprings Fri 07-Mar-14 20:33:56

Your local riding stables will give you some

HansieMom Fri 07-Mar-14 20:56:07

You could call your city and see if they have compost for sale. Some cities make it from leaves. We make compost from leaves too, but it is not sightly and does not make a lot. However we live on acreage and the leaf storage, fenced off, area is back in the woods. I'm thrilled to have it, but we need more for mulching so we buy compost by the yard. A yard is a cube 3' x 3' x 3'. This is in the states. Two or three yards would do a lot for your soil. Most nurseries will deliver in bulk, maybe with a four yard minimum. Here it cost about $35 a yard, with delivery extra. You can call a mulch place and see if they sell compost.

I admire your hard work so far and I do not think small pebbles will hurt at all, and may improve drainage. You want to make your soil lighter and more friable. Next year after harvest you can plant a cover crop. That can do wonders for your soil.

Good luck on your garden, and Happy Spring!

Mirage Sat 08-Mar-14 18:01:46

If you are near me,you can have as much as you want free! Otherwise your nearest stables will be happy to oblige,a lot around here have it bagged up free for collection.

ShoeWhore Sun 09-Mar-14 21:37:46

Riding stables or a farm.

WestmorlandSausage Sun 09-Mar-14 22:15:23

if you give a rough geographical area someone might have an idea what direction to point you in.

FunkyBoldRibena Mon 10-Mar-14 06:26:18

Nearest stables. Also, use a dalek compost bin, and every month, take it off, move it 3 ft and fork everything that hasn't composted back into the bin. The rest, rake over the soil. Or regularly turn over your compact pile so that you walk it over the plot every few weeks. Then the stuff that is rotting stays on top of the soil each time.

You are better off not digging stuff in, but leaving it on the surface for the worms to pull down. Just dig out perennial weeds and spend your time on composting and mulching with manure. Annual weeds, hoe off and leave on the surface.

Another thing to consider is paths. If you grow in rows, you have to dig over the whole plot each year as you walk on the soil. If you have permanent paths, you don't dig those ever, and you don't waste mulch and compost on places that you will be walking. It's a much better use of space, time and effort.

FunkyBoldRibena Mon 10-Mar-14 06:28:05

The reason for not digging stuff in, especially non rotted stuff, is that it uses nitrogen to rot down and if your plants are in the same space, they won't have any available nitrogen and as that's the main nutrient that they need, they don't grow properly.

Ferguson Wed 12-Mar-14 19:51:48

Yes, manure is great, or spent mushroom compost?

But do places still GIVE away compost? Thirty years ago we used to have trailer load delivered every year, for £5 if I remember. It is very bulky to transport.

Martorana Wed 12-Mar-14 19:55:14

I've got loads you can have.........

justkeeponsmiling Thu 13-Mar-14 15:44:51

Hi everyone, sorry I've not been responding! Thanks so much for all the answers, I really appreciate all the advice.
I live in North Wales, so if anyone in my general are who has some manure to spare I would be ever so grateful! Otherwise I'll follow the advice and get on the phone and try some stables, I'm sure there must be a few in the area.

Merel Mon 17-Mar-14 21:48:49

I recently got 10 sacks of free horse manure/straw. Someone left them outside their drive with a 'Free Muck' sign. We picked them up last week and this week they already have several more dumped outside, so it's definitely worth scouting out or phoning up stables and riding schools in your area. If you know anyone who keeps chickens, then you can ask them to bag up their muck as it's very nitrogen rich.

I have moved into a place with very heavy clay soil and some large trees that needed felling, so I have started a couple of hugelkultur beds. You basically either dig a trench and bury wood in it, or lay the wood at ground level, then layer up with 'green' waste and then bury it over with soil. It's supposed to improve the soil and help with drainage, raise the temperature of the bed and prolong the growing season. Too early to see if mine have been a success or not yet though.

mangohedgehog Tue 18-Mar-14 18:18:56

Do an eBay search, there are quite a few people on there with rotted manure, some are giving it away free if you go and pick it up

mummytime Tue 18-Mar-14 18:34:18

Okay I think you need to identify what kind of soil you have first.
Take a lump and make it wet until its like play dough or plastacine. Can you make it into a ball, will the ball stay together if you drop it about 6 inches from 1 hand to the other? Can you make a worm? Can you make a ring?
The more of those you can do the more clay you have in your soil. If you can make a ring you almost certainly want to add some sand. You probably want to consider it in the other circumstances too.
Next test, take a smaller bit and make it wet, then rub it through your fingers. If you can feel grains then you have sand in your soil. If it feels soapy then you have loam.
The ideal soil has the right balance of all three (but most people don't have it).

Adding manure will help with the organic content, and will improve the structure. But if you have a lot of clay it will still tend towards waterlogging and poor drainage.

Bearleigh Tue 18-Mar-14 20:03:37

You may need to fill your own bags...

I go from time to time to our local stables, wearing Wellies and gloves, armed with a spade and lots of old compost bags. The stable staff are all charming, and help my car through the gates to the muck heap. If I'm lucky, and I usually am, there will be a well-rotted bit exposed, for me to mine in. It really isn't that smelly, even where the muck is fresh, and I get a buzz from being fairly green and digging my own muck out. I've seen lots of wildlife, and filling my Mini with bags doesn't take long. It is hard work though: I usually do no gardening that day once I've unloaded the bags.

ThingsThatGoBumpInTheNight Thu 20-Mar-14 01:03:44

Thread hijack to thank mummytime for that soil advice, very handy thank you

Monty27 Thu 20-Mar-14 01:04:58

Lots of stables do free manure. You can also make your own compost bin smile

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