Fertiliser-mushroom compost

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Sun, 29 Mar 2009 15:25:07 PDT
I use very aged, screened steer manure in the garden and vegetable 
garden but not on my bulbs or alpines.

The organic component of my bulb planting mixture is topsoil that I 
dig up in my woodland, preferably under alder trees (deciduous and 
nitrogen-fixing) and put through a fairly coarse sieve. I pick out 
any visible live insects, centipedes, etc. There are, obviously, 
microorganisms of many kinds in this humus (and seeds, but there are 
few introduced weeds in the woods), but I haven't noticed any 
mushrooms coming up in the pots or any rotting. I also use a soluble 
chemical fertilizer 4 times a year on the potted bulbs. This has been 
effective and seems safe. I repot the bulbs every other year into 
freshly mixed soil.

One thing that I avoid is using any kind of bark with bulbs. The 
microorganisms that break down bark and wood chips also appear to 
attack the tunics of bulbs, and probably other tissues when they're 
dormant in summer. You can see the white filaments (mycelia) in the 
bark and also on the non-growing underground parts of plants. Bark is 
the main ingredient in commercial potting mixes in this region 
(Pacific Northwest), meaning that I can't just order a truckload of 
mixed soil and, every summer, have to mix some cubic meters by hand.

I will now be told that lilies grow fine in bark mix, and they do. I 
think this is because (a) they don't have tunics, and (b) they are in 
growth in summer, when the bark-eating organisms are active, and do 
not attack the actively growing lilies. Most of my bulbs, however, 
are dormant in summer.

I stopped using chicken manure in the garden because a couple of 
loads I bought had dead chickens in them, to the disgusting delight 
of my Malamutes. I've never used horse manure because of the 
well-known weed problem. Mushroom compost was the preferred amendment 
when I started the garden, but when we got more information about its 
drawbacks, I quickly stopped using it.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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