You can joke and laugh about manure all you want, But, when the laughter subsides, gardeners know the value of manure as a free and precious garden fertilizer. Experienced gardeners know that manure is one of the best natural, organic fertilizers around. And you can use it from many sources.
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.
Manure also 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.
If you are lucky enough to have a source of manure for your plants, count your blessings.
Importantly, you can not just place raw, fresh manure in, or on top of, the soil where your plants are located. Raw manures are too “hot”. Most notably it has too much nitrogen and can burn your plants. Rather, you need to compost fresh manure, affording time for it to properly decompose. You can work raw manure into the garden in the fall. However, never use it fresh in the spring or summer.
Thought for the Day: When the chips are down, the buffalo is empty.
The diet of each and every animal varies, especially between vegetarians 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 differently. Dietary changes, especially seasonal, also affect the final “finished product”.
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 intact. People who use horse manure, experience far more weeds in their gardens.
Cows eat lots of field grasses and weeds. 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.
What kind of manures do gardeners use? The answer to this is pretty much what is available locally in your area. As for sources of manure, farms are the most common source.
Cow – One of the two most popular manures, it is generally available in large quantities. Farmers who convert cow pastures to farmland, reap excellent results. For the average home gardener, cow manure is a bit messier to handle.
Horse – 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.
Chicken – If you are near a chicken farm, this is a good source of manure.
Turkey – 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 – 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 – Some suggest that rabbit manure is absolutely the best they have used. Finding big quantities is a 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 – While this is practiced in some foreign countries, the home gardener should avoid it. Untreated human waste has a human disease that you can pick up or transmit.
Dog and Cat – okay for a flower garden, but not recommended for the vegetable garden.
Stray waste (Deer, Duck, Geese, etc.)- Limit these to the flower garden or discard.