Thursday, June 5, 2014


Part of the 4-H cattle experience is dealing with 
manure:  Cleaning beds,
cleaning it off the calf and occasionally off my shoes...
Have you considered going natural fertilizer for your garden and flowerbeds?  Natural fertilizer is manure or animal poo poo for the more delicate natured of my readers.

There are animal owners who give away or sell this animal by-product.  It may be harder to find if you live in urban areas but not impossible.  It’s also sold by the bag, cleaned and the stink removed. 

Some manure is called “garden stew” because it’s steeped in water and the resulting “tea” is used because that’s where all the nutrients remain.  It’s not hard to do this if you don’t mind the icky factor.

Manure from all mammals are not equal in nutrients or safe to use on all garden plants.   People poo:  not so healthy.  People pee:  good for non-edibles.  There’s a reason trees by guys events grow so tall . . .

I’ve used cow and horse manure with good results.  Plus, it has the benefit of not being so very smelly.  Although if you let it age a year, it has almost no smell at all.  Aging manure should be mixed with straw, dried leaves or wood shavings and turned every once in awhile.  Get this pile going and you’ll find earthworms having a field day.     
Rather than show stacks of manure, I'll just 
show layers  of things that love a well manured soil.

I took a survey of poo users and it varies widely so I’ll just list some of the benefits.

Chicken & turkey:  High in nitrogen means it is great for the garden but can’t be put directly on plants because it may burn the roots.  Mix the manure with carboniferous material (such as dead leaves) and the strong ammonia smell will be eliminated. 

Rabbit:  Although not as available, it’s high in nitrogen and phosphorus.  Almost odorless and breaks down easily. 

Horse:  Horse manure contains moderately high nitrogen although some gets used up by the bedding materials.  It also contains viable weed seeds because their digestive system does not break them down.

Cow, sheep, goats, deer & pig:  Weed seeds do not survive their digestive systems.  If it isn’t mixed with bedding, it breaks down faster and is therefore better to use.  Nitrogen is lower than for horse manure.  Hog manure smell will diminish if it’s combined with dry carboniferous materials and the nutrient level is similar to cow.

Bat:  Considered the best of the very best.  Since most of us don’t have a supply, if you buy it, will be expensive.

Watering (by rain or hose) applied manure will
help it to reach the roots.
Do not use dog or cat poo or from any carnivorous/meat eating species.  You ONLY want poo from plant eating animals.  Manure from carnivorous species can contain parasites and disease that can be transferred to humans in foodstuff or by handling.  This is practiced in some foreign countries and it’s why many shoppers don’t buy produce from out of the USA. 

Every gardener who uses animal manure has their favorite and swears there’s no better kind.  Mostly, it’s what’s available.   

All farmers used to have livestock and all farmers used to spread manure on their fields.  It was the original crop fertilizer.  You’ll see some of the local farmers still tending their manure this way.  Some large operations have too much and they mix it with water and it becomes both an environmental and a good neighbor issue.  Some large operations like the dairy farm Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, is bagging their cow poo and selling it as a side industry.  The bag reads, “Don’t let anyone else give you crap.”  Gotta love farmers who are always thinking new, profitable,  sustaining and have a sense of humor.

Know what your supplier feeds their animals.  You don’t want to have contaminants added to your soil. 

Compost is a mixture of carbon and nitrogen.  If you really want to test the nutritional value, take some compost and some sand and plant a few peas or beans in a pot.  If it comes up healthy and green, you’re good to go.

Typically, roses enjoy being fertilized by manure.  This is the
always beautiful "Julia Childs" rose.
Back to your beds:  During fall or late winter, top-dress your beds with a couple of inches of well-rotted manure.  Remember if you use fresh manure, it will have an odor and it will burn roots – a bad thing.  If you have old, hard, clay soil, work in the manure.

The nutrient content and nitrogen level of animal manures varies with species, the animals age and condition, the time of the year and how the manure was stored.  All “clean” manure will increase organic content and improve the nutrients and water holding ability of your soil.

And finally some manure gathering etiquette:  Ask permission to gather or take manure.  Bring your own gathering/loading equipment and tools.  If you want it, you will usually have to shovel, load and transport it yourself.  Bring your own containers.  Dress for the work.  If you put fresh manure in containers and put it in your trunk, your car will smell like a barn.  If you get manure from a farmer often, thank them profusely and it wouldn’t hurt to take them some of your fresh veggies or flowers now and again.  If they refuse to let you have manure, thank them and be nice anyway. And that’s it from Pooville.

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