We all know that adding organic matter to the soil is a good thing. Composted garden waste, mushroom compost and well-rotted manure are the three main traditional sources of organic soil conditioner.
These add organic nutrients, humus and organic fibres to the soil which increase its fertility and improve its structure.
The humus is the gelatinous, viscous part of soil which coats the soil particles, keeping them apart but at the same time enabling them to hang on to water and nutrients.
The general organic matter keeps the mineral particles apart creating that magic fruit-cake mixture we call soil.
Bulky organic fertiliser is natural and more beneficial to soil organisms and the soil system in general. The disadvantage with bulky organic conditioners is their volume, weight and the effort required in handling them.
You need large quantities and, in the case of manure, it must be well-rotted or composted. If un-composted matter is added it takes nitrogen from the soil as it breaks down.
If fresh manure is added it releases high concentrations of salts into the soil which can damage plant roots.
A traditional load of manure is also a bit of an unknown. Even if it has been well rotted it may carry weed seeds, especially if it is from the outside of the heap which has not been hot enough to kill them.
One alternative is to use a concentrated organic fertiliser derived from chicken manure.
While it doesn’t replace the need for the more bulky farmyard manure on heavy or impoverished soils, 6X is a well-known and well-loved alternative, which takes a lot of the effort out of spreading manure on the garden, once you have established a good rich soil structure.
I’ve used it for over twenty years and am a great fan. One sack is equivalent in nutrient value to six or more sacks of traditional bagged farmyard manure
Weighing in at 15kg (30lb) it is light enough to handle and one sack treats up to 184 sq metres (220 sq yds.). However like all gardeners I use it a little more generously.
This type of organic fertiliser is sterilised to kill off any harmful bacteria and weed seeds so it is safe to handle and will not introduce unwanted problems.
In recent years some stable manure products have been connected with herbicide damage due to residues in stable straw.
6X is fibrous, pleasant to handle with a healthy aroma that will let the neighbours know you are gardening. Just don’t leave a bag of it in your car on a warm day!
Spreading a concentrated organic fertiliser is not an exact science. You just scatter it over the soil surface and lightly fork it in. However it is important not to overdo it.
This type of fertiliser releases nutrients faster than granular organic fertilisers which break down slowly. Too heavy an application could cause a high concentration of salts in the soil water which can scorch delicate plant roots.
I would use this type of fertiliser as a pre planting application a couple of weeks prior to planting. This gives it time to break down in the soil water and blend with the soil particles.
As I garden on acid soil I also apply lime to the vegetable plot to raise the pH (veggies prefer an alkaline soil).
It is important not to do this at the same time as applying manure, concentrated or otherwise. Apply the lime earlier in winter and leave for 3-4 weeks before applying manure.
Concentrated organic fertilisers are also ideal to sprinkle around shrubs and perennials, particularly those which need plenty of nitrogen.
Although it is no substitute for a slow release fertiliser I add a light application of 6X around my roses as the new shoots start to develop after pruning.
I also use it around peonies. These do need plenty of nutrient in the ground and they love organic matter. In this case I would use the concentrated organic fertiliser and a generous amount of good garden compost as the shoots start to grow.
Incidentally you can also use 6X on your compost heap as a compost activator.
Pelleted chicken manure is perhaps the most popular way of adding this type of organic fertiliser. It is easy to handle and spread.
It soon breaks down in moist soil and starts to release valuable nutrients. It is similar in concentration to 6X, perhaps even more concentrated.
Chicken manure pellets do vary in the amount of nutrients they supply, so it is worth buying a quality pellet. Unlike concentrated organic fertilisers, chicken manure pellets usually give you the breakdown of individual plant nutrients on the packaging.
Chicken manure pellets are easy to handle and spread. They are best lightly mixed in to the soil surface and require adequate moisture or watering to release their nutrient content.
They are ideal way to use this type of fertiliser in pots and containers and are perfect for livening up the growing medium in raised beds.
I usually add some fresh potting mix to raised beds each year and a generous application of chicken manure pellets.
For more information on 6X concentrated organic fertiliser check out the website: http://www.6-x.co.uk/index.htm You will find some useful advice about your soil and how to improve it organically.
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