Nitrogen fixation is one of the most effective ways to treat leyland cypress diseases such as sylvatic plague, white pine blister rust, or even white pine wilt. There are several methods for nitrogen fixing. One method involves planting trees with a soil amendment called “nitrogen fix” (N) fertilizer. N is added to the soil to increase the amount of available nutrients in it. The problem with using N is that it takes time for the plants to absorb all of it into their roots, so there may not be enough available nutrients for them to grow properly.
Another way to use nitrogen fixing is through composting. Composting is when organic matter like leaves, grass clippings, wood chips, etc., are mixed together to create a rich nutrient rich environment for beneficial microorganisms. These microorganisms then break down the material into its component parts which can be used again. For example if you have a pile of leaves and want to turn it into mulch, you could mix up some of the leaves and bury them in your garden.
The natural microorganisms in the soil will quickly break down the leaves into a nutrient rich substance that can be directly applied to the garden. This is called “sheet composting”. You could also create a pile of leaves and just leave them to naturally break down. This is called “mass composting”.
Sheet composting is a good way of adding nutrients to your soil over time. If you wanted to add nutrients immediately you could turn over the soil and bury the materials several inches deep. This method is called in-situ composting. In-situ means “in place”. If you are trying to fix nitrogen you need to create a special pile of materials known as a “nitrogen fixing bundle”.
A bundle is basically a large mound of leaves or grass clippings that have been mixed with a base material like sawdust or wood chips.
Once you have mixed the base materials with the green materials, you need to add a special ingredient. This ingredient is known as “animal matter”. Animal matter is basically anything that once was part of a living animal and has decayed. This includes, but is not limited to: blood, bones, feathers, fur, hooves, horns, indigestible parts (like hair or toenails), intestines, lungs, skin, stomach contents and even waste.
The amount of each ingredient will vary with the size of your nitrogen fixing bundle, but here is a basic recipe to get you started.
2 wheel barrows of green ingredients (shredded leaves, grass clippings)
1 wheel barrow of base ingredients (wood chips, sawdust)
1/2 bag of animal matter (blood meal, bone meal, feather meal, hoof meal, horn meal etc. Don’t use actual meals, use the grindings left after the meals have been processed).
Mix all of the ingredients together and get them as evenly mixed as possible. The bundle should be around 3-4 feet high and 5-6 feet in diameter. It should resemble a very large haystack.
Once you have created your bundle, cover it with a tarp or plastic to keep it dark and let it sit for about 6 weeks. Check on it every couple of days and keep sprinkling water on it to keep it moist (but not soaking wet).
After six weeks your bundle should be ready. Turn it into your garden, spread it out and then turn the soil over it. Keep the soil turned over the nitrogen fixing bundle for about a year and then turn it under completely. In about a year you should be able to see a marked increase in vegetable growth where you used the nitro fixing bundle.
You can make a new one every year. The older the bundle is, the better it will work in your garden.
The addition of animal matter is what really makes this process work, so don’t cheat and skip it!
It’s a good idea to make a pile of the base materials (wood chips and saw dust) and keep them handy so that you can quickly make a nitrogen fixing bundle when the need arises.
What to Do if You Don’t Have Room for a Compost Pile or Tumbler
If you don’t have space for a pile, you can still compost. There are two options that you can take:
You can create a “vermi-composting” system by buying red wriggler worms from a fishing supply store (also sometimes available from bait and tackle shops). Read the care instructions that come with them carefully and set up their home.
You will need an old fish tank (at least 30 gallons), aquarium gravel or small pebbles, shredded newspaper and kitchen scraps. Set up the tank with the gravel or small pebbles to a depth of about 2-3 inches in it. Fill the tank with water and add the worms and enough kitchen scraps to cover the bottom of the tank (not too thick though). Add fresh water every day and keep it balanced with waste.
After about six weeks your worms will have eliminated all the waste and left you with a rich fertilizer. You can use this as a base for potting plants or in the garden.
Whichever method you decide to use, be sure to keep the scraps balanced between green and brown. If you get too much of either, the process will stall. The worms will still be doing their job, they just won’t be able to process it as quickly.
You can also create a smaller version of the tumbler by using an old plastic barrel (at least 30 gallons). You’ll need to punch holes all over the bottom for drainage and place it in a sunny location. Add shredded newspaper and kitchen scraps and keep it balanced as you do with the plastic tumbler.
If you’re really short of space and money, you can start saving your kitchen scraps in a bucket in the freezer. When it’s full, take it out and mix everything up. Place it in your barrel (with holes in the bottom) or heap it somewhere that it can “cook”. This method is not as effective though, so don’t use it as your primary means of composting unless you really have to!
Sources & references used in this article:
Diseases of Leyland Cypress In the Landscape by L Cypress – pdfs.semanticscholar.org
Diseases of Leyland cypress in the landscape by AD Martínez-Espinoza, J Williams-Woodward… – 2009 – athenaeum.libs.uga.edu
The fertility of Leyland cypress. by J Armitage – Plantsman, 2011 – cabdirect.org
Transplant date influences cold hardiness of Leyland cypress following transplanting into the field by OM Lindstrom – HortScience, 1992 – journals.ashs.org