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Manure or compost to improve poor soil?

Which is better for improving poor soil: well rotted manure or compost? I've cleared some borders for planting, but the soil is very poor sandy and stony ground. It needs lots of organic matter to make it half decent.

I note that in Gardeners' World Adam Frost prefers well rotted manure over compost. Is there something in this, or do they both do the same job? 

Posts

  • SophieKSophieK Posts: 244
    Soil improver and manure!
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 12,367
    Well-rotted manure is generally reckoned better but you can also add in your own home made compost if you have any or the green manure many Councils sell.
    Multi-purpose compost is not suitable on its own to improve poor soil.
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • pjwizonpjwizon Posts: 52
    SophieK said:
    Soil improver and manure!
    What's the difference between soil improver and multi-purpose compost? Is it a high quality compost marketed as 'soil improver', or something else?
  • pjwizonpjwizon Posts: 52
    Lizzie27 said:
    Well-rotted manure is generally reckoned better but you can also add in your own home made compost if you have any or the green manure many Councils sell.
    Multi-purpose compost is not suitable on its own to improve poor soil.
    Good to know. Thank you.
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 30,003
    MPC is lightweight, fibrous material which will help improve moisture retention in you sandy soil - if you can add it by the cartload - but not add much in the way of nutrients.  I use it as a soil improver here but only when it's on a BOGOF or similar offer. 

    Sandy soil is usually free draining and low in nutrients so will be better improved by adding well-rotted manure and garden compost, again buy the cartload if possible before planting.  You can top it up every autumn by laying on fresh layers when perennial plants go dormant or veggie beds are emptied and depending on your crop rotation.     
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 10,414
    As the owner of dry, sandy soil I can confirm what @Obelixx says. I use as much garden compost as I can make, and occasionally buy bagged manure from the garden centre. There aren't so many horses etc around here so non-bagged manure isn't easy to get. I put used MPC from hanging baskets etc on the borders (better than binning it) and I once used new bags that were very cheap, but it disappears into the soil in seemingly no time at all.
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • garyd52garyd52 Posts: 51
    The long and the short of it is that both are good so add as much of either or both as resources and availability allow , you'll never add too much except for some plants such as Peonies that do not like to end up being too deeply planted because of years of mulching around them , and for those who say that MPC just disappears try taking a small sample of soil from an area that has received no compost and store it away for a year then add a decent amount of old or new MPC to the same area and a year later take a sample and then compare it under a low powered microscope to  the original no compost sample and you'll quickly realise that MPC does not just simply disappear .
  • pjwizonpjwizon Posts: 52
    Thanks very much for the replies. I have dug copious quantities of compost/mushroom to one section of border, but I think I'll switch to well rotted manure for the next section and monitor the comparative results.


  • Let us know how you get on! I've been trialling a range this year in my garden--I found a good well-rotted horse manure and one made of composted bark, as well as using some coir. I think I like the bark one best, not least because of its appearance. But then I garden on clay, so the benefit of organic matter is more about opening up the soil than water retention.

    I did once garden on a basically sandy soil left from a glacial moraine, but improved over the years into good garden loam. It was certainly the most generous garden I've ever had in terms of all the plants I could grow easily that I can't now--much better for roses, bulbs (including hyacinths), camellias, and South American plants such as Berberidopsis. But if you dug about 40cm down it was pure orange sand.
  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 10,414
    ...But if you dug about 40cm down it was pure orange sand.
    That's what I have, but with added sandstone pebbles! It's like builders' sand dotted with pebbles anywhere that hasn't had oodles of organic stuff added, eg if I take out a shrub that's been here longer than me.
    garyd52 said:
    ... and for those who say that MPC just disappears try taking a small sample of soil from an area that has received no compost and store it away for a year then add a decent amount of old or new MPC to the same area and a year later take a sample and then compare it under a low powered microscope to  the original no compost sample and you'll quickly realise that MPC does not just simply disappear .
    I don't have access to a microscope but my subjective experience the only time I tried it deliberately (rather than the random chucking old stuff out of pots onto the borders) was that after a winter I couldn't tell it was ever there. Maybe it just needed a lot more, and I think the money would be better spent on manure. However it was probably something like 25-30 years ago that I tried using MPC as soil improver, no peat-free then that I recall, and I suspect modern MPC made from green waste, composted bark, shredded wood etc would do better than the old-fashioned peat-based stuff because it's closer in composition to compost-bin compost (probably finer graded and with added sand and fertiliser).  Maybe I'll try it sometime by way of an experiment, but for the moment there's plenty of good stuff in my own compost bins, and I still think that if someone needs to buy in soil improver, MPC isn't the best choice.


    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
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