Horse Manure Can Improve the Soil for Your First Garden.
Using Horse Manure
For me, the best way to amend the ground with organic matter is to use horse manure because it adds nutrients and improves on the texture of the dirt. Horse manure can be purchased from most garden supply stores. Many farms and stables also have it for sale. Or, if you happen to know someone with horses, they will probably be more than happy to supply you with some!
Horse manure that has had a chance to sit out in the sun for a year or two is the ideal horse manure to use when amending the ground for your garden. This manure has had time to decompose and break down to the point that it actually no longer smells and it looks and feels like dirt. This manure can be spread over the entire top of your garden plot and even worked into the ground.
If the horse manure you have access to is fresher, you need to use more caution when adding it to your dirt. Often, it is better to add this manure after you have planted your flowers or vegetables. This way, you can place the manure around the plants in a way that prevents them from actually touching their stems. Fresh horse manure contains ammonia and heats up while under the sun and, if it is touching your plants at the time, it can actually burn their stems. In addition, it has an unpleasant odor.
Horse manure is not your only natural option for amending the dirt. You can also purchase castings. Castings, which are earthworm droppings, can also be purchased from most garden centers. Or, you can maintain your own earthworm composting bin and collect your own castings. You will learn more about how to do this in the composting section of this guide.
Other Organic Additives
Your compost is also an excellent source of organic matter because it is made of dead plant material. Peat moss is another option for plant organic matter. It is inexpensive to purchase and is great at loosening clay dirt. Peat moss can, however, be very dusty. Therefore, it is best to wet it before using it in order to make it easier to work with. Even grass clippings and other plant debris can be great for amending your soil, just be sure the plants and clippings you use do not have seeds. Otherwise, you will have a lot of weeding to do!
If it will be awhile before you plant your garden, you can also plant cover crops (also known as green manure) in your plot. Cover crops are plants, such as clover and vetch, that are planted and grown in a plot that will not be immediately used. These crops help keep the dirt loose and prevent weeds from growing. At the same time, they add nitrogen to the dirt and can be tilled directly into the ground when you are ready to plant.
Now that you have finished amending your dirt, we can officially start referring to it as soil! It has gone from being a brown, dirty mess that does not support a healthy and happy garden to soil that is ready to produce tasty veggies or beautiful flowers.