Ahhh Manure part 1
Ahhhh Manure. Where to start? One can’t very well be a great natural gardener without recognizing the power of the poo, the might and magic of manure.
Manure is compost, manure can be added to compost, added to garden soil, or even used as a side dressing for established plants.
Those creatures whose manure we covet for our garden soil eat grass, hay, weeds, fruits and vegetables, and combinations of those. Their guts are super speed composters, and the manure they produce brings back to the soil the very nutrients that the plants they ate took out of the soil in the first place as well as the cellular wastes the creature burned up during respiration, all in a form very useful for the building of soil and plants. Ever notice how green livestock yards and pastures are? Ranchers don’t use chemical fertilizers on that grass! That’s the magic of manure at work.
It was once believed that vegetarians could not get vitamin B-12 because it was only available through ingesting red meat. It has since been determined that vegetables like collard greens, kale, broccoli, and kohlrabi (just to name a few), growing in cow manure compost are rich in vitamin B-12 which we get when we eat them. Party on vegetarians, manure’s got your back!
Ok, so you are sold, I can tell. Here’s what you need to know to use manure properly. Many fresh manures come too hot to use on your plants…that is if you are out in the pasture following the cows around scooping up the freshest piles you can find be prepared to stash that away in your compost pile for at least few months. Fresh manure is so high in available nitrogen that it initially burns plants. That brown spot in the grass beneath the manure is a burn. Not all manures are that hot when fresh, I have applied some fresh manures right out of the bucket with great results. Rabbit manure is the bomb for immediate application on plants , as well as Goat and Sheep, Alpaca and Patagonian Cavy manure. Mostly manures that come out in pellets are non burning. Worm castings from the worm bin are also perfect for immediate application. I have used all of those for a top dressing on all stages of plants past seedling.
Manure is poop. As I said earlier it contains cells or bacterial life from the animals’ respiration, or body functions. People handling manure should be sure to wash their hands and garden gloves afterward. Mostly manure from herbivores is pretty safe for us to use and to handle if we use some common sense. It might seem romantic to go from the garden work to the kitchen work, but it’s not practical. If you have been out shoveling manure all day you need a shower and a change of clothes before harvesting and preparing dinner for the family.
Composting manure for that reason is a great safety measure. During the composting process the pile may reach temperatures over 150 degrees f. While there are compost organisms that specifically thrive in those high temperatures, those that can make us ill do not, and when the pile cools down those organisms that thrive in the hottest temperatures die off and are consumed by other creatures in the pile. Weed seeds are also destroyed during the composting process so that if you are using horse or pony manures which contain undigested seeds you will have fewer weeds in the garden if you compost those manures first. The process of break down and change in the compost pile and it’s community of organisms and creatures is for another article…stay tuned, that is some fascinating stuff.