Is top-dressing apple trees with fresh home-grown, no-arsenic, chicken manure a bad idea? I searched other threads and did not seem to see an answer- looked like a couple people put it on fresh. If need to compost, would a couple months do it?
The two issues can be involved with fresh manure- food poisoning and soluble nitrogen. The first only if fruit comes in direct contact with it like from eating drops, the second can be positive or negative, depending on what your trees need.
Composted, the manure will release the N much more slowly and will release more when the soil warms in summer. For young fruit trees you get better bang from that released in Spring, especially for apples and any species that gets it’s main growth burst in Spring. Early spring is when N serves the fruit.
Two months should do it if it isn’t too cold and the micros can work on it efficiently. Food poisoning as a result of raw manure is mostly a problem with veggies eaten raw.
Thanks Alan-exactly what I needed to know. There’s a bill in Md legislature this session to require giant chicken companies to take responsibility for disposing of the mega tons of chicken manure before it leaches into Chesapeake Bay, a huge problem here: algal bloom, eutrophication, dead zones. Maybe it could be composted and sold like Milorganite?
Chicken manure is known for its very high N and P content compared to other animal manures. It used to be fairly widely available composted.
Decades ago, my father kept chickens and used wood shavings from a local furniture maker to line the egg boxes. The mix of the two became my first compost and got me great results in the sandy soil on his property. I dressed everything with it and even mixed it with the OM starved soil.
I agree with what Alan said. There are many people who would try to skim the ground with fresh chicken manure and cover with wood chips operating on the premise that the wood chips will absorb the nitrogen temporarily and tie it up. Eventually wood chips remember add more nitrogen than they take (several years later). I think Alan’s idea of composting the chicken manure first is a good idea and if you compost with wood chips or sawdust etc. (something with a high carbon rate) you are basically creating a slow release fertilizer long term. You might look at this short video on it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQH0J2poixk
When I first tried composting a big pile of leaves, it just didn’t work. Then a lady gave me her leftover CM compost she felt was too raw for her garden. I brought it packed in garbage bags in my car trunk. The car stank for weeks!
That little bit of CM did the trick. The pile started steaming in a week! So yes, it’s great for composting browns. I’m not sure you want all that Nitrogen for your fruit trees though.
It’s very rich manure. This soil is not really soil it’s chicken manure and wood chips 5 years later. This garden area does not dry out easily so it’s prone to weeds but grows amazing vegetables. Years ago I dug out 1 foot deep of clay soil and filled it with chicken manure and wood chips in this 15’x15’ area. At the time I just abandoned this area for 3 years and as you can see by the color of the soil I never regretted the decision but rather wish I would have done more area like this.
For what it’s worth, I dress lots of trees with fresh manures of all types including chicken. I think so long as its just laid on top of the soil and not put on too thickly (or if it is thick, then it should be mixed with lots of bedding), then its fine. I’ve had good results and never burned a tree so far.
I think by not composting the manure first and putting it down fresh you are able to capture all the runoff. So many nutrients are lost to the site where your compost pile is. Its nice if it can all be made available to the intended plants instead of what’s growing next to the compost pile.
Chicken manure is “hot”, that being said they just spread several truck loads on the 20 acres of fescue pasture right across the road from my house today. You just can’t over do it.
We don’t use CM until it’s mixed with some other organic matter or composted for 6 months. The ammonia that out gases from it will burn tender foliage. That’s what we’ve seen from scraping out of the coop. We’ve had excellent results w/CM mixed with horse manure and used as a base layer for replenishing raised beds. We top the mix with a layer of soil and plant in the soil. The manure breaks down and we don’t get burn from it like fresh does. I also use a shovel full of CM when planting trees, it goes into the hole the fall before along with a 16oz. scoop of gypsum and a few ozs.of a triple 14 sulfur coated fert. The trees explode out of that mix.
Reading in Tom Burford’s excellent book on apples that his family always cleaned out the chicken coop to put on the orchard and it stunk to high heaven. Tom’s book also warns: “Don’t be a snipper” who every year cuts back the tips of every branch, but that’s for another thread. What a huge disagreement there is on that practice.
Yup, still does:grinning:
Commercial growers often spread urea in their orchards in spring specifically because it is “hot”. Only water soluble N allows you control of when the trees will take it up. Ultimately, you don’t want juiced up trees that put on a lot of summer growth once trees are mature- hence the single early spring app. If only the spurs are invigorated (they are your first growth), it is primarily the fruit that is served- summer vegetative growth pulls sun and nutrients away from spur leaves and fruit.
I used to annually mulch all my trees. After a couple decades of this routine I realized I had made my soil too “good” for my trees and brix had dropped with the rising vegetative vigor.
Growing quality fruit is a delicate choreography of achieving “moderate” vigor- enough growth to assure healthy spur wood but not enough to create big watery fruit. This is made more difficult when you can’t regulate water, as is the case in the humid regions.
Excessive growth from fresh chicken manure will cause Fireblight as sure as there are 24 hours in the day. I’ve caused it by using to much biochar as well. That new growth is very disease prone.
Once trees are established, we normally won’t fertilize again as the soils are rich here. I prefer a slow release fert. to maintain adequate growth the first year but then only a 1/4 cup per tree.
Straight urea fert will usually sublimate here in 4-6 hrs. if not watered in. Every granule will form a puddle and it all evaporates.
We surely had watery fruit with double the normal rain this last year. Most ag drainage is still running, may have stopped with very low temps last 2-3 days, although I saw very small creeks still running yesterday.