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Manure & soil improvement

Manure is a useful organic material for improving soils. Studies of Colorado manure quality reveal that some manures have salt levels in excess of what vegetables, flowers, turf and some shrubs can tolerate and that causes growing problems. Feedlot manures can be especially high in salts.

Manure can be used as either a mulch or soil amendment. In both cases, manures high in salt can cause seed-germination failure, plant stunting or leafmanure burn. In heavy clay soils that are not irrigated or have poor drainage, salts build up in the root zones of plants. This problem is even more serious for soils already high in salt. When these soil conditions exist, try using sphagnum peat, compost, leaves, chopped straw and other low-salt organic materials instead of manure.

When added to soil as an amendment, organic matter improves drainage, which allows salts to leach through the root zone of plants. This requires organic matter coarse enough to improve drainage. When using any organic amendment, be sure to thoroughly mix and incorporate it deeply into the soil.

For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extension fact sheet(s).


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Updated Tuesday, July 22, 2014