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It's said that we shouldn't use manure when preparing ground intended for carrots. Is it that carrots don't thrive on manure, or is it that they fork and splinter too much?

What about other roots? Radishes, beetroots etc?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 13 down vote accepted

The root cause (no pun intended) is that excess nitrogen will make the roots fork. I've heard two different theories as to why:

  1. "Hot" fertilizer like fresh manure burns off the fresh roots and makes them fork.
  2. A lot of nitrogen in shallow soil fails to encourage the plant to scavenge deep in the soil for nutrients, and they send out roots sideways instead.

Or it could be combination of the two -- but the latter came from a more reliable source and fits more with my experience. (One of my books versus something seen on the internet -- sorry I can't remember exact sources.)

Even in soil where I haven't added extra nitrogen but was very fertile with other nutrients, I have seen carrots develop not so much forked roots as fat sideways roots instead of the usual fine "hairs".

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Fresh manure can cause carrots to fork. If you use any fertilizer, make sure it's well-rotted manure instead. (source)

Same goes for beets as well. (source)

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Fresh manure also can transfer E. Coli to garden vegetables, so you should always make sure your manure is well composted, for around 3-4 months. If it's still smells very strongly, it's probably too fresh.

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This doesn't really answer the question about growing carrots but it's a good point. –  kevinsky Aug 6 at 11:58
    
Ecoli bacteria is found in manure of meat eaters. That is why we don't use manu –  stormy Aug 6 at 18:04
    
...manure of humans, cats, dogs...etc. for our vegetable gardens. In the U.S., anyway. Manure of non-meat-eaters is great once it is completely decomposed. Decomposers use a lot of nitrogen to decompose. Otherwise the nitrogen in 'hot' manure can kill plants. Completely decomposed organic products are great for improving soil for plants, adding nutrients and to feed soil organisms necessary for helping plants take up nutrients they need to make their own food. Fluffy soil = nice thick straight carrots...manure or compost is for soil amendment, soil organisms. Don't use in place of fertilizer –  stormy Aug 6 at 18:37
    
@stormy Also good to note: Cattle use E. coli to digest their food. Grass-fed cattle have an almost neutral reaction in their stomachs. Grain-fed cattle have a far more acid stomach content, similar to humans. So grass-fed cattles' E. coli hasn't adapted to acid conditions, and will usually be killed on contact with human digestive acid. In almost all cases of cattle giving E. coli to people, the cattle were given grain or silage as part of their ration. I found this interesting, and a + for buying grass fed beef. –  J. Musser Aug 6 at 19:06
    
Whoa! Very interesting...thanks J.!! I love my meat, sigh. Gotta raise our own beef or piggies or chickens. But, but!! I gotta not be such a baby I guess. Grin! Grain/silage is high protein (fyi) and grass is mostly carbohydrate (unless you get into alfalfa and timothy)... –  stormy Aug 6 at 19:14

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