Full of Crap: Manure Types for Organic Gardening

This post is all about poop! Using manure as fertilizer is simply a part of composting and organic gardening. Below is a bit that I’ve learned on different manure options and their benefits/disadvantages. Hopefully this little guide will be helpful!

Please note: Never scoop anything out of an animal’s butt and toss it on your edible plants. Ever. All manures should be properly aged and composted, or at least heat treated before use. These methods will prevent the passing of harmful pathogens and parasites. Farm on!

Via Forest Edge

Earthworm Castings Worm castings are one of my absolute favorite soil amendments. It’s great for novice gardeners because it’s idiot proof: castings don’t burn plants in high quantities so there is no need to measure carefully before applying. They don’t need to be composted or heat treated. Worm castings are high in macro and micro-nutrients and they stimulate good microbial growth. The only downside is that it’s hard to get worms to generate enough poo to fuel a large garden or farm! 

There are low cost castings, like Wiggle Worm, which are created by mixing castings from various sources. Some say this leads to inconsistency in the product but, at the end of the day, it’s a decent quality for the price. 

Higher quality castings like Worm Power and Sungro Horticulture Black Gold can be very expensive. You’ll get more for your buck by making casting “tea.” It’s a good way to distribute the dense nutrients over a larger space. 

It’s also a good idea to buy your own earthworms and let them do their thing. You have precise control over what they’re fed and thus the quality of castings they produce. Earthworms multiple like crazy, making them a worthwhile investment. These critters are all around a good, long-term solution for improving your soil.

Via Chicken Lover Life

Chicken Manure This is arguably the second best option to worm castings. It can be stellar for Georgia clay since many chickens are juiced-up on calcium to make their stronger eggs; this calcium is then passed through their manure and into the clay, helping to break it up.

The downside is that bird manures tend to have relatively high nitrogen content, which can burn seedlings. If using fresh manure, compost it with other organic matter, give it at least three months to mellow, and ration the mixture to mature plants. Or buy prepackaged products like Chickity Doo Doo Organic Fertilizer.

Via Happy Cow Caramels

Cow Manure This is a popular option, readily available at most home and garden supply stores or anywhere within 30  miles of a farm. It’s plentiful and therefore quite cost effective. 

Downside: it’s relatively low in nutrients. Cows do some serious digestion work on everything that they put in their mouths, so there are fewer nutrients remaining in their manure. Thus fewer nutrients get to your soil. It’s still a good option, though, and it won’t burn plants. 

Fresh cow manure can be dangerous, not just because of its smell. It can hold a cesspool of nastiness (especially if you aren’t familiar with the cows’ livelihood) so be sure to heat treat or compost cow manure before applying it to your edible garden.

I couldn’t find a widely revered cow manure to suggest; so many gardeners and farmers recommend buying local. We’ve used Moo-nure in the past and were quite satisfied.

Via iStock

Horse Manure Of all pooping animals, horses are probably my favorite BUT their manure isn’t the best option. I daresay it’s not even a good option. 

Horse dung can be full of weeds, since seeds aren’t broken down in a horse’s digestive tract. Many horses are given dewormers. Remnants of the drug are passed through the excrement, which will kill earthworms that are beneficial for your garden and compost bin. Grazing fields are also treated with herbicides to prevent the growth of thistle; this herbicide lingers in the soil after the manure has been applied, damaging a variety of plants including garden favorites like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, many herbs and flowers, and legumes. Lastly, horse manure is rich with magnesium, which is great for short term applications but over time, a build up of magnesium can cause stunted growth in plants. 

So basically, love the horses and leave their poop alone. At least for edible gardens, anyway…

 Got questions about manure for gardening? Let me know and I’ll do my best to find an answer for you!

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