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NOVEMBER: Put Your Outside Beds to Bed

There are lots of things to do in November to get ready for another successful season of gardening/ farming: 1) manure, 2) block weeds, and 3) compost.

Manure on the Garden Beds

Whether you are growing flowers or vegetables, manure is a great way to replenish the soil. You may not have chickens or goats, but if you look in the classifieds (Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc) you may be able to find some providers who are happy to have you scoop a few loads of poop.

Why Now?

Because manure is poop, it needs time to both “cool” off (chemically) and rest so that there is no contamination or chemical burning. The California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) association requires application of 120 days prior to harvest to avoid such contamination. So in Colorado, I like to start incorporating manure at the end of the summer growing season before it gets cold (and I don’t want to shovel manure) and because the spring in Colorado is too late to apply for summer harvest. Chicken manure, however, should sit for 9-12 months before being used on food crops. Another good reason for putting it into your beds now.

What Kind?

I recommend goat, sheep, cow, chicken, and turkey manure. NOT HORSE! Horses are not full ruminants like goat, sheep, and cow, and therefore can spread weed seed in their manure.

Goat and Sheep: manure is drier than cow or horse manure. It has less odor, is easier to spread, and composts more quickly. Goat manure is also higher in nitrogen than horse or cow manure. Goat and sheep manure is very easy to work with as it is not as chemically hot as poultry manure.

Chicken and Turkey: manure is very high in nitrogen and contains a good amount of potassium and phosphorus. The high nitrogen and balanced nutrients make chicken manure one of the best manures to use. Chicken and turkey manure should sit for 9-12 months before being used on food crops.

I mix goat and chicken manure in my beds at a 75/25 ratio… I find that this gets the best soil/compost after sitting over winter.

Important Notes

  • DO NOT pile up chicken manure to rest. It stinks. I mean like, your neighbors will call the city on you. (I learned this the hard way.)
  • NEVER USE POOP FROM CARNIVOROUS ANIMALS for manure on food production areas (dogs, cats, people, etc). I do not know this from experience, just information I know from composting and reading about composting for a long time.

Cover Areas with Recycled Cardboard

Now is the time to put down a weed barrier that will compost into the soil. Recycled cardboard creates a great weed barrier at anytime of year. It lets the water in, keeps the weeds down, and is not a petroleum product like many weed barriers. Be sure to cut holes to accommodate current plants, with several extra inches of space around so that they have room to grow in the spring. 

I know you thinking-- but that looks awful! 

Cover it with mulch (which is also on sale this time of year). Your gardens will look great all winter! 

Note: use brown unbleached/colored cardboard and remove all tape, etc.

Composting

There a lots of different ways to compost inside and out. Because I have such a great source of manure, most of my compostable food items are fed to the chickens or goats. But I do compost things that the goats/ chickens will not eat: coffee grinds, tea, and citrus peels. I find this makes a great compost (highly acidic) for things like my rose bushes. The thing about composting is that while is generally easy, the mix or nutrients is based quite a bit on what you are putting into the compost. Here are some sites that have some great tips:

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