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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 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. 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 of manure.

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.

More Information:

Manure Tea, and how to make it

Compost and Mulch - Learn how to compost kitchen, yard and garden waste, into rich, soil.



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