Organic Manure for your Garden
How many websites that you know of, have a page devoted to manure? Not too
many, huh!?! Well, we do and right about now, we should give a light hearted
pause for a few jokes. Considering the fact that we are a "kid-safe" website,
we will pass on the normal humor and dig right into the topic.
Pretty much everybody knows what manure is. But after that, why do gardeners
value it so highly? What to we do with it? What do we really know about it?
And, how many people do you know of, strive to be the subject matter expert
on manure, despite it's importance in the gardening world?
Value of Garden Manures:
Manure is the "black gold" of the gardening world. Manure does a couple of
things for your soil. First, it contains a rich and wide range of minerals
and nutrients. It provides abundant amounts of the three main chemicals your
plants need: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. Importantly, it also contains
many of the micro-nutrients that we hear less about, yet are essential for
plant growth and health..
The second benefit, is that it adds to the composition of the soil.
It contains both animal waste and straw (or sometimes sawdust). In addition
to all of those valuable, naturally sourced chemicals and nutrients,
well-decomposed manure adds valuable compost that holds moisture and promotes
easier, and healthier, root growth.
Garden Tip: When dealing with manure, make sure that is it
well-decomposed. Work it into the garden in the fall. Never use fresh manures
in the spring, or during the summer growing season.
We emphasize well-decomposed (or well rotted). Fresh manure is very "hot"
and can damage your plants. Have you ever seen a dog "do his thing" on the
lawn, and found a brown spot a few days later? Fresh manure is very high
in nitrogen, and burns plants. That same reseeded spot a few weeks later,
becomes the greenest spot in the lawn, thanks to the rich amount of now
decomposed and diluted material in the soil.
Don't know how to compost manures for your garden? It's a cinch. Just
pile it up, or put it into a composter. Then, just let the manure decompose.
It takes a couple months in warm weather. It also can decompose over the
winter months. Stirring the pile will aid in the process.
If you like the benefits of manure, try using Manure
Tea on your indoor and outdoor plants.
Thought for the Day: When the chips are down, the buffalo is empty.
Not All Manures are created equal!
To suggest that all manures are the same is to be naive. The diet of each
and every animal varies, especially between vegetarian and carnivores. Most
of the manures which you have regular access to are vegetarian. But even
within this group, diets are different, and the digestion process functions
different. Dietary changes, especially seasonal, also affect the final "finished
As an example of the differences, horses eat lots of field grasses and weeds.
They do not pulverize their food as they eat it, and their digestive tract
allows many weed seeds to pass through unaffected. As a result, a horse excretes
many of those seeds. People who use horse manure, experience far more weeds
in their gardens.
Cows eat lots of field grasses and weeds, too. They chew and grind their
food far more thoroughly, and their digestive system processes the food far
more efficiently. The "end" product contains far fewer weed seeds. On the
other hand, cow manure is much "wetter", making it harder to handle.
What kind of manures do gardeners use? The answer to this is pretty
much what is available locally in your area.
Cow Manure - One of the two most popular manures, as it is available
in large quantities. Farmers who convert cow pastures to farmland, reap excellent
results. The disadvantage, is it is a bit messier to handle.
Horse Manure - This is the second of the top two sources available
to home gardeners. The supply is usually readily available. It is mixed with
straw or sawdust. With a barrel and a pitchfork, and you are all set.
Chicken Manure - If you are near a chicken farm, this is good source
Turkey Manure - As with Chicken manure, if you live near a turkey
farm, stop by and see if the farmer will let you take some.
Sea Gull Manure - In the humorous book "Pumpkins are Orange" by Jack
Breckinridge, a pumpkin grower goes off in search of quantities of seagull
droppings, on the theory that everything near the ocean grows big because
of it. Who knows, he may be right!
Rabbit Manure - Some suggest that rabbit manure is absolutely the
best they have used. Finding big quantities is the challenge.
Bat Guano - Bat Guano (manure) is believed to be the absolute best
of manures. Commercially, it commands the highest prices.
Did you know? There are articles and research on which type of bats
produce the best bat guano.
Human Manure - While this is practiced in some foreign countries,
the home gardener should avoid it. Untreated human waste can carry transmittable
human disease that you can pick up or transmit.
Dog and Cat Manure- okay for flower garden, but not recommended for
the vegetable garden.
Stray waste(Deer, Duck, Geese, etc)- Like other manures, it is good
after it decomposes.
Sources of Manure:
The most common source is farms in your neighborhood. Some farms will charge
for you to take it. Others will let you haul it away for free. A few, will
not let you take it at all. In all cases, we recommend you be polite and
respect the other person's property that you are on, as an offensive person
or two can spoil access to those who come seeking manure later.
If you go often, bring along some of the fruits of your labor(flowers, fruits,
vegetables). It goes a long way towards developing friendship to someone
who is giving you something of value for free.
Before you go: Manures tend to be messy. You would be amazed at how
many people do not plan ahead for this task. Wear old clothes. Protect your
vehicle by placing plastic covering down even, if you are hauling it in covered
containers. Place plastic or newspaper on the floor under your feet. Shovels
and pitchforks are a necessity, as is a good pair of work gloves. I saw one
person once come up and ask to use the farms tools. He left quickly. And,
don't forget an old towel in case you need to wipe your hands before touching
the steering wheel.
Manure Tea, and how to make it
Compost and Mulch - Learn how to compost kitchen,
yard and garden waste, into rich, soil.