The Q&A Archives: how much manuer?

Question: I built a 8'x16' garden. It has about 4.5 yards of new top soil in it. How much manuer and/or peatmoss and/or lime stone should I add to the soil to have a productive garden this summer? I plan on building a composting bin for next years fertalizer. thanks for your time. Lane Meyer

Answer: First off I would strongly suggest you have the top soil tested for fertility and pH. There is really no way to answer your question without running some tests. Use the test results to determine how much lime you might need and also how much fertilizer or equivalent in organically supplied nutrients.

If you use manure, due to potential pathogens it must be well aged and thoroughly composted before adding it to a vegetable bed. Be aware too that it may contain a high level of salts. It also needs to be tested to verify its value as a source of nutrients.

In general, raised beds seem to do well if they are about one third organic matter such as compost, rotted autumn leaves, milled spagnum peat moss or whatever you have locally available. You may also need to add some coarse sand (not beach sand) or fine grit to assure it drains well, depending on the top soil you used.

Peat moss is quite expensive in this type of volume quantity. If you use baled peat moss, dampen it thoroughly before you add it as it is very difficult to wet after the fact. One method is to open the bale at one end, set a slow dripping garden hose on top of the dry peat moss and let it slowly rehydrate. Peat moss has an extremely low nutrient value.

Another excellent potential source of organic matter is cover crops. Plan on using one this fall at the end of the season and also possibly between crops this summer.

Your local county extension should be able to help you with the testing and interpreting the results for a raised bed situation where you are growing intensively. Enjoy your new garden!

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