How To Manure Your Plot For Winter

One essential job over winter is to prepare your vegetable garden for the following year. A part of this is to add compost, often in the form of manure, to the ground so that it will be full of nutrition the following year. Another advantage of adding manure is it helps to break up the soil, which is vital if you have a heavy clay soil.

picture of manureYou can get hold of manure for free from most farmers or horse owners, let’s face it … most of them have so much that they don’t know what to do with it all and are usually overjoyed when someone asks to take it away. You may need to bring your own bags or trailer, but you can often get lots of manure for free. We are fortunate in that our allotment committee has made an arrangement with a local farmer to deliver manure regularly to the plot. The picture here shows you a fresh delivery … in fact it is so fresh it is steaming!

You should not add fresh manure to any plot that has seedlings, bulbs or plants in as it can burn your plants. As it rots so it heats up and this heat can damage delicate plants. If you want to add manure to a bed that already contains plants then you need to rot the manure for 6 to 12 months. You can either do this in a compost heap or you can leave the manure in plastic bags and it will rot down. Once it has stopped generating heat then you can add it to your plot.

How much you add will depend upon the condition of the soil. For me I wanted to lift the soil level in the raised beds so I added enough to get it above the required level … why above? Because the manure will rot down and the soil level will sink a bit.

manured raised beds You can just put the manure on the top of the soil and leave it, which will work. I prefer to dig it in to the soil because I find it breaks down quicker and the benefit of the manure is spread throughout the soil. It also stops lumps forming. If you are not going to cover the area you have manured then you need to dig it in otherwise the manure will clump together and take longer to break down.

Once you have dug the manure in then, if you aren’t using your beds until spring, you can cover them over. This is going to help keep the bed warm plus it will stop weeds from growing. It will save you a lot of time in the spring and you will be very pleased you did. It is a huge time saver and you have more than enough to do in the spring without having to dig over all your beds.

DSC_0014You can buy tarps to cover your beds, which a lot of people do or you can use bin (garbage) bags, which is what I used on my raised beds. I simply split them along the seams and then weighed them down with stones. I will staple them to the raised beds later in the year but I want to remove them in a couple of weeks to dig over the beds and ensure the manure is well incorporated into the soil.

Adding manure is something you can be doing right now to your vegetable garden to prepare it for the spring. Cover the bed and then when spring comes you have less work to do and can enjoy getting your vegetable garden ready without back breaking digging!