Thursday, March 2, 2023

Fertilizing the garden


Looking west from the high-point of the "annex" which is about 180' east/west and about 30' in the north/south direction.

The trees in the background are a 65' wide wildlife travel corridor. It also functions as a windbreak.

The dark lumps are packages of fertilizer graciously deposited by my cattle. They liked the windbreak.

Looking east from the highest elevation there is very little fertilizer.

The fix

Three very excited employees promising me that they will spread fertilizer where it is needed.

Next week, I intend to place another bale of hay forty feet east of this one.


There are trade-offs. Potatoes can become "scabby" if there is too much fresh manure added.

Root vegetables and greens should be cooked before eating.

The ground is soft this time of year. There will be some compacting of the soil. That will be off-set by the action of the worms that will be feeding on the fertilizer.

A big round-bale of hay is nominally 800 pounds and first-cutting, mostly grass hay probably averages 12% protein or about 2% nitrogen. Mostly alfalfa would be closer to 20% and 3.5% respectively. That means each 800 pound bale of hay brings 16 pounds or 28 pounds of nitrogen respectively to the garden.

Not all of the poop and pee will land on the garden, but much of it will since the cattle will "loaf" on the hay they trample and lighten-their-load when they stand up.

If my target is to add 200 lb of supplemental nitrogen per acre, that means I need 25 pounds actual nitrogen. 16 pounds of nitrogen per bale X 2 bales...minus the inevitable losses means that two bales is about the right amount for 5400 square feet of garden for corn, potatoes and other heavy feeders.


  1. Thanks for the excellent nitrogen info and math. That pretty much confirms my use of 2 lbs of alfalfa meal and 2 lbs of soya meal tilled in for a 50 square foot bed of heavy feeders. A bit less if my two backyard chickens had their run for a couple of months in pairs of those beds.

  2. Turns out we have naturally high ph soil in our region but years ago when I first started gardening I assumed a low ph like I have seen everywhere else that I have lived in Alaska. I applied wood ashes liberally to some of the garden. Result: very scabby potatoes on especially where ash was heaviest! Advice from Cooperative extension was to apply elemental sulfur to reduce ph. Do a soil test on new ground!

  3. Is there any advantage to either using multiple, smaller quantities of input material distributed in the area to be fertilized? Or, putting the single 800 lb unit on wheels to move it every day or two? What's the duration in days for 800 lbs of input material?


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