Saturday, March 14, 2009

An Experiment

I said earlier that I intend to plant corn, beans, and squash in the goats' bedding areas in order to put the extra nitrogen to work. However, I've been doing some reading about gardening, and apparently the uncomposted (well, partially composted) manure will interfere with the growth of plants until it is composted. This is probably true, but I would like to see for myself exactly what happens. So now I will put in an identical patch of corn, beans, and squash in the previous winter's bedding location and in a normal spot in the garden.

Plot 1 is the less composted location. It is sod covered with maybe half an inch of spilled hay and a lot of goat manure and urine. I am working on digging it about a foot deep to mix the hay and manure into the soil and to break up and kill the grass. I will probably plant the corn (the first of the plants) in May in order to give the hay and manure time to begin decomposing.

Plot 2 is the location of the goats' shelter and feeder from two winters ago. Last spring, summer and fall we kept a pig on that location, and she thoroughly mixed the soil, bedding, and manure together, and added more of her own. She was removed last December, and the soil has been untouched since then. It's black, crumbly, and easy to dig. I will prepare that plot the same as the first, and plant the corn at the same time.

Plot 3 will be typical, unimproved garden soil in Paul's garden. All of the garden has received some goat and pig manure and some digging from the pig, but outside of Plot 2 it is scattered and random. This will be the control, to see if planting in a freshly manured spot is more profitable than planting in normal, unimproved soil.

Since planting times for the beans and squash will depend on the size of the corn, it's possible that the different plots will be ready for them at different times. I will keep notes on growth rates, healthiness, and yield for the three plots. I believe that the pre-composted plot will outperform the uncomposted plot, but I am interested to see how big a difference there is, and whether it is even worth it to plant an uncomposted plot.

My science teacher mother would be so proud.

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