Milk and Manure
ou can’t have one without the other. While Jane provided a little bit of garden fertilizer as she was growing into a cow, now she has come into full production, at least in the manure department. Yeah! Typical farm girl that I am, I would rather be cleaning a barn than doing skirt work as Linda calls it. So a daily chore around here in the dairy department is the daily wheelbarrow of goodies for the garden. While Jane has access to pasture all day and night, she spends some time eating hay in the loafing shed.
Consistently her spell in the loafing shed provides us with one complete wheelbarrow of mostly soiled straw, sawdust and about five good sized manure patties every day.
I like sheet mulching the garden with this material, although last year I heaped it on a little thick and made problems for myself. Due to the thickness of the mulch it didn’t break down in time, and subsequently I lost some production area and provided a mighty nice home for slugs for the entire gardening season. Having learned my lesson, this year I’m carefully spreading these stable cleanings to a uniform three-inch thickness. Before the rains commenced I spread lime lightly and I use lime when I bed Jane’s area, so I think I am going into fall in good shape in the garden.
Some areas that have higher fertility got the cover crop treatment instead of sheet mulching.
The sheet mulching works well when I still have crops to harvest in the garden. I can pick and choose where I place the material and leave the crop rows free and clear of cover crop or sheet mulch. Sheet mulching also protects the soil, much like a cover crop, and we have a good 6 months before we will do any work in this garden area so the manure will have plenty of time to break down. After applying the mulch it takes about a week to see earthworm activity, just pull the sheet mulch aside and you will find the earthworms at work, and depending on the weather they will be busy working all winter long with this cover.
Last year I used barley for a winter-killed cover crop, and as you can tell it made it through winter, reseeded and is growing again this fall. Sigh.
Is your garden put to bed for the year?