The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening Science - Soils, Manure and the Environment
Chapter: Chapter 2: Manure

Composting for gardeners

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1294. It is the common practice with gardeners to suffer the stable dung to ferment till the fibrous texture of the vegetable matter is so entirely broken down that the whole mass can be easily cut with the spade; and long experience has shown that this is the best state for applying stable manure to the ground. Some years since, when chemistry first began to be applied to agriculture, Sir Humphry Davy, a very eminent chemist, tried numerous experiments which, in his opinion, appeared to prove that by this mode of fermenting dung a great proportion of the ammonia and carbonic acid which it contained escaped during this fermentation, and in order to avoid the loss of this valuable matter, he recommended that the dung should be applied to the ground while in a recent state, and suffered to complete its fermentation in the soil. Other writers on the subject advised the covering of dung-hills with soil, to prevent the escape of the ammoniacal gases; and these opinions continued to be maintained for several years in despite of the practice of the best cultivators, who resolutely persevered in using those means which they found were followed by the best results.