Farm yard manure is the holy trinity when it comes to garden soil. It is so because it offers soil the three most important components. They are; nutrients, drainage and micro organisms. These three components are what good soils are all about and if your soil test kit tells you that your soil is lacking in nitrogen then I would recommend you getting your hands on some farm yard manure.
Farm yard manure is highest in Nitrogen, you can test your soil for Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium using a standard soil test kit. When getting farm yard manure make sure that you get well rotted manure. This manure should be composting for at least 6 months, but in Ireland generally 9 to 12 months is required to breakdown the manure enough. If you choose fresh manure you run the risk of burning your plant’s root and also reducing your soils nitrogen levels, which happens as fresh manure decomposes. Well rotted farm yard manure should be clean, should not have a strong smell and you should not be able to distinguish the individual parts.
When planting a new hedgerow or trees it is a good idea to do a soil test determine whether manure is necessary. Personally, i would always add some farm yard manure to soils when planting because farm yard manure can do a lot more than just add nutrients. Farm yard manure, comprising of a mess of organic material contains a lot of pore spaces and canals which improves soil drainage in heavy clay soils.
To use farm yard manure; prepare your planting hole as normal, if your manure is still fresh you can dig the planting hole a bit deeper than normal. Using a garden fork place 4 inches of manure into the bottom of the hole and mix it through your existing soil. The manure will contain to improve drainage, increase soil micro organisms such as worms and important bacteria and replace essential nutrients that your soil test kit has revealed your soil is lacking.
Farm yard manure, especially when fresh can make your soil more acidic, so when you add manure to your soil it would be recommended that you compete another soil test to determine whether the soil has become overly acidic.
The best way to get farm yard manure is to get in contact with a local farmer who may be able to supply large quantities. Garden centres and hard ware store also sell it but often in smaller amounts which are not cost effective. You can also use chicken or poultry manure pellets which are neat and easy to use but only provide a nutrient boost. Poultry manure does not improve soil drainage or increase soil bio diversity like farm yard manure can.