Compost question

Dolores, CO(Zone 5b)

I posted this on the SW Forum as well... looking for any help I can get! Some of you may have read that we had a sheep manure compost disaster... we used steer manure compost for most things, but then we couldn't get anymore, so I bought sheep manure compost, which I then had Tony use to plant all of the berry plants we had just gotten (and unfortunately I had him use a LOT of it). Anywhooooo, it promptly killed all of the berry plants. We also sprinkled it on the top of the soil in the vegie and potato gardens (lightly), and now it seems to be adversely affecting those as well (yellowing leaves). Can anything be done to help the poor plants? Now the sheep compost has leached into the soil, so there is no "digging it out". Help!!! DH thought I knew what I was doing.. I've lost my credibility, LOL!

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

EEK! It sounds like the manure wasn't aged enough and inhibiting the plants ability to take up nitrogen. I think you can fertilize to fix this but I'm not sure how. Please let us know what you find out dear Brenda {{{{Brenda's plants}}}}

Santa Fe, NM

I really don't know what would help but I do sympathize. I'm getting lots of yellowing leaves around here, too. I have used well-aged horse manure and gro-power and alfalfa based stuff this summer. My theory is that the abundant rain and then very hot weather has left some plants exhausted. I'm inclined to just wait and see rather than adding more stuff right now. Maybe a little seaweed tea, if anything. Water.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

I'm getting yellowing leaves too. They came when it got hotter and stopped raining.

I do know that sheep manure is stronger than steer manure. It also seems to be less tolerable by plants.

Santa Fe, NM

I wonder if our usually heat/drought tolerant plants got spoiled by all the rain and are now sulking!

Centennial, CO(Zone 5b)

depending on the plant the yellowing leaves can be a symptom of too little oxygen around the roots, or a trace mineral depletion. I'm betting on the latter. We are even seeing it on some mature maples.

Coffee grounds, dry leaves, etc. can be used to fluff up the area and the coffee even adds trace minerals. Use some dilute fish & seaweed liquid fertilizer around shrubs like roses.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

You are both probably right. I think the new growth spurred by the wetness is more susceptible to changes. The heat then makes the deficiency more apparent.

Glenwood Springs, CO(Zone 5b)

Sheep manure is one of the "hotter" amendments, you may have burned your roots.

Is it possible that your compost contained a high level of salts? Yellow drooping leaves sounds like a salt problem. If so you may want to try and flush the salts out of the soil beyond the root zone. Watering will also help move excess nitrogen away from roots.

Without a chemical analysis it is impossible to know for sure.

Santa Fe, NM

I just read a garden tip from Newman's Nursery in Santa Fe. It says if trees and shrubs are getting yellow now you can help keep them green by giving them a weekly application of liquid kelp, one application of Epson salts (magnesium sulfate), followed by an application of iron sulfate two weeks later. So, we are looking at some mineral replacement , kind of like taking Emergen-C for electrolytes on a hot day. Or Gatorade. The sheep manure is another story. It sounds like it was just too rich.

Dolores, CO(Zone 5b)

Sigh. Good info Roybird, but I fear the damage is done, and I am (being ever optimistic) starting to say things like "well, the soil will be that much better next year".

And it will...

Santa Fe, NM

Well, it will be really great soil next year. Not much help right now but at least you know that nothing really terrible came of it, like an oil spill or something. Or a hurricane. I'm looking on the bright side. l.o.l.

Dolores, CO(Zone 5b)

^_^

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

If any plants are still alive, water like crazy. What actually kills the plants is that there are more ions in the soil than in the plant and through osmosis everything is leached out of the plant and it dies. Watering it dilutes the fertilizer so it is not so harmful to plants. I had to do that once with some tomato plants that a kindly neighbor once put a whole lot of liquid nitrogen on. If you get to them quickly enough you can save them. Same with the other veggies. They are most likely suffering from fertilizer burn.
On the potato plants. First, it is not a good idea to put manure on potatoes, because they can get scab from it, though that rarely happens in the dry west. Have they bloomed yet? If they have then you probably have some potatoes and the plant is dying back because it is finished. Many potatoes tend to die back about this time, because they have already made potatoes. When they bloom is when you can start digging them. So if yours have bloomed feel around underneath them for potatoes. If they haven't bloomed, water them a whole lot to dilute the fertilizer.

Good lesson in composting -- alas, at the expense of you plants. When you get manure in the future put it in a pile. If you can layer it with leaves, grass clippings, non-animal kitchen products, whatever you can get your hands on. Be sure to wet each layer as you build the pile. Moist compost matures faster than dry compost. Then let it sit. It will probably heat up -- which kills weed seeds. If you can talk yourself into it, after the pile heats up, turn it over i.e. shovel it into a new pile. That mixes oxygen into the pile and it will usually heat up again -- not quite so hot. You don't have to have a compost thermometer if you don't mind plunging your hand into it to see if it is hot. If you want a compost thermometer for this job -- you can get one from Johnny's seeds.
When the heat has completely subsided it will be save for your garden, but if you let it sit for 6-mo. to a year, the worms will move in and turn it into very fine stuff and worm poo is marvelous for your garden -- never burns anything.
Did any of the plants survive the manure? If so they will probably do very well next year. If they were raspberries or black berries they probably will be fine.
Roybird is right, you will have good soil there next year because of the fertilizer. If you are planning to use uncomposted manure, you spread it in the fall and it has all winter to decompose so as to be more available to plants. But if you have the energy, build a compost pile out of sheep manure right now and it will probably be ready in the spring.

Dolores, CO(Zone 5b)

Thanks for the detailed info, Paja. One of the blackberries seems to be making a comeback. The sheep manure was supposed to have been composted (the bags said it was sheep manure compost)... that's what is so upsetting to me. Anywhooooo, lesson learned. We do plan on starting a compost pile (it's on the 'to-do' list). We are digging up a few of the new potatoes now, and the rest of the plants are starting to look a bit better. I think also that the veggies needed more water than we were giving them... it's amazing how fast things dry out here. On another positive note, we're starting to pick some tomatoes!

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Yes, when you suspect fertilizer burn water. In the Southwest, water cures almost everything of a gardening nature. Almost.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Dang,
Can't find your bear thread so I will post this here. It is from today's NYTimes and is about "Bear Vaults" for food. Very funny. Chalk one up for the bears. Very interesting, too.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/25/nyregion/25bear.html?em

Dolores, CO(Zone 5b)

That is one clever bear! Amazing. Thanks for sharing the story!

Glenwood Springs, CO(Zone 5b)

bsavage,

You might want to try some Penmax from Green as it gets, http://store.greenasitgets.com/shared/StoreFront/default.asp?CS=gaig&StoreType=BtoC&Count1=368282496&Count2=285422921

this should help with all things that are burning you up!

Dolores, CO(Zone 5b)

Thanks for the link, Pewjumper. I'll check it out!

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