Bark or Manure?

Discussion in 'General Gardening Discussion' started by ThePlantAssassin, Jul 25, 2020.

  1. ThePlantAssassin

    ThePlantAssassin Gardener

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    My soil is still poor and has a lot of chunks of clay everywhere once I start to dig or try to plant something. At the end of the season when my perennials are over and I'm cutting everything back I want to apply a cover of medium over all my soil. Last year I put a 2-3" layer of the manure you buy from the garden centre in bags over it all but I'm not entirely sure its done that much. My plants haven't been in that great condition this year with many of them having lots of brown leaves and not as much flowering as Id hoped for. Should I do the same again or try something different like bark? Or mix the 2 together maybe? I guess my objective is fourfold. Feed the soil. Keep the moisture in. Suppress weeds. break up the clay. All thoughts, ideas and advice gratefully received. Thank you.
     
  2. hans

    hans Gardener

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    I have clay soil here and over the years I have added farmyard manure, home made compost and a little fertiliser. I grows well but can be a bit lumpy. In a ideal world you could add topsoil to improve things. There will be others on GC who may well have helpful suggestions.
    Bottom line for me is clay soil will grow well with a little encouragement.
     
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    • ARMANDII

      ARMANDII Low Flying Administrator Staff Member

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      Hi, well, there is no magic answer to the problem, PA:dunno: I had the extreme opposite to you in that, many moons ago, my garden was, when I bought the House, pure sand and I live about 25 yards away from an old Roman Sand Quarry. The only answer is to keep adding Manure in as great a quantity that you can and over the years the soil will improve. There is no instant answer to the clay problem apart from keep digging over any bad spots and adding as much Manure as you can consistently so that the Worms, etc, will come start "farming" the soil for you.
      I would look around to see if there are any Farms or Stables near you as getting manure from them is much cheaper and you can get it in larger quantities which is really what you need. I have at least 8 Stables and several Farms within a mile of me and, in the early years, had tractor loads of both Manures tipped into the garden for free as they were desperate to get rid of the accumulated mountains of Manure, but it still took years before I saw any signs of worms which is the sign of growing fertility in the soil. You could, if you thought it was a good idea, to add several tons of top soil. to help things along with the addition of Manure. So there is no quick answer to your problem but if you keep adding as much Manure as you can for as long as you can the soil fertility will happen and improve.

      To be honest, I don't think adding Bark is a good idea as (a) it is usually used as a Mulch or a Decorative dressing and (b) has no real nutrients in it (c) there's a good chance that, over the years, at it rots it will attract Fungi and you will be faced with lots of Mushrooms!!
       
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      • ThePlantAssassin

        ThePlantAssassin Gardener

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        @ARMANDII and @hans
        That is great advice and very helpful thank you. I'll swerve the bark and stick with manure. On a budget so replacing with top soil not really an option unfortunately and also the level of the soil is already too high. The manure from last year seems to have broken down and disappeared so not affected the height too much so will do the same again. Thank you.
         
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        • WoolyBack

          WoolyBack Gardener

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          • Scrungee

            Scrungee Well known for it

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            Doesn't gypsum react with biodegradable materials to produce hydrogen sulphide, a toxic gas? (Which might be why our local tip charges more for disposing of it, than it costs to buy it).
             
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            • WoolyBack

              WoolyBack Gardener

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              You are quite right. The book I was quoting from, 'down to Earth Fruit & Veg. growing', dates from 1960 L D Hills founded the HDRA, the national charity for organic gardening but a lot has changed since then. After reading your comment, I did a search and found this:
              https://consultation.sepa.org.uk/op...ng_documents/170529 Waste Gypsum Guidance.pdf
              'The use of gypsum to improve soils' which ends by suggesting that it doesn't except if damaged by seawater.
              Gypsum does produce H2S in anaerobic conditions which shouldn't apply in garden soil but I would withdraw my comment and be more careful when quoting from old books.
              I looked in the book for insecticides and he recommends cigarette butts with soap so again not a good idea now.
               
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              • Scrungee

                Scrungee Well known for it

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                I think that can spread tobacco mosaic virus. I've visited a seed producers/nursery where smoking was banned and smokers were required to wear gloves.
                 
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                • NigelJ

                  NigelJ Total Gardener

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                  You have to be careful with recommendations in old books, one of mine advocates treating pea and bean seed with arsenic to "discourage" mice, also strychnine for moles and probably a bit safer a couple of ounces of shag tobacco on an old plate for fumigating greenhouses; you light the tobacco place a plant pot over the top so it smoulders nicely, close the door and come back the next day.
                  I did read that at the RHS's restoration of their new garden at Bridgewater they had had to strip the topsoil out of the walled garden, dispose of as hazardous waste and replace. This was due to heavy metals in the soil mainly copper.
                   
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                  • pete

                    pete Growing a bit of this and a bit of that....

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                    If you use manure make sure it doesn't contain weedkiller.
                    I think anything organic works, or for breaking up clay sharp sand if you can get it.

                    On veg I find green manure works well over a few years, I use grazing rye over winter.
                     
                  • Mike Allen

                    Mike Allen Total Gardener

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                    Probably some time in the future, similar comments may be given.
                     
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