Fertilizing the soil for vegetables

Garden Q&A

November 30, 1997

I want to improve my vegetable garden soil this fall. A co-worker has offered me some horse manure. Is this going to be safe for my garden? I'm a little worried about E. coli and other diseases.

Horse manure and other farmyard manures are excellent for supplying nutrients to soil and improving soil structure. Yes, there are risks, but they can be minimized. First, select manure that has been composted and aged for three to four months (harmful microbes are killed by the composting process). Second, don't apply manure within two months of harvesting garden vegetables. Third, don't allow any edible portions of your vegetable plants to come in contact with the manure.

Fall is the best time to spread manure. Simply mix it into the soil with a spading fork or Rototiller.

I have a lovely, 4-foot-high rhododendron and photinia shrub next to my house that must be moved in the next few weeks. Can this be done at this time of year? How much of the root system do I need to dig up and preserve?

You shouldn't have any problem transplanting healthy dormant shrubs. Your biggest chore is going to be digging them out of the ground. Don't worry too much about saving a large number of roots; the root system will regenerate in the spring.

Be sure to set the shrubs in their new planting holes at the same depth as they were previously planted. Spread the roots out in the bottom of the planting hole, press the soil down around the roots when you backfill, and water roots well.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507 or visit its Web site at http: //www.agnr.umd.edu/hgic.

Pub Date: 11/30/97

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