Beyond Manure

oggcloverh.gif (163x98 -- 7647 bytes)

Organic Ade

Beyond Manure

whdaisysmll.gif (100x100 -- 6083 bytes)
Witch Hazel
the "easy organic"

For many people, organic fertilizer means poop. Horse poop, cow poop, rabbit poop…it’s all guano to them. But aside from all of the exotic selections of various gourmet garden poop offered today, there are a great many organic amendments you can put in your soil that makes that funny blue stuff in the plastic packaging obsolete. But first let’s get the scoop on poop.

I’ll bet you thought manure was manure. Well, you’re wrong. Manure can be manure, composted manure, guano, or even vermipost (worm poop). Any of the end products of veggie-eating animals can be used on a garden without concern for contamination. However, some are better than others for various applications. Remember, though the big three nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) are required for healthy growth, the trace nutrients, like boron, manganese, zinc, copper, calcium, etc…can also drastically effect the flavors and scents of your garden.

The Scoop on Poop!

Manure: Manure is mostly from large, plant eating animals that leave large clumps and clods behind them. Horses and cows, pigs, sheep, and buffalo…etc…A bit messy and usually comes with bedding or bits of pasture mixed in. Poultry poop is also considered manure. The smell can be a problem if applied fresh, but can be covered over with sawdust or wood chips to keep it down. These nutrient rich clods can be a problem since undigested seeds often crop up, happy and healthy, in the garden where they are applied. Also, the fresh manure can provide too much nitrogen, burning immature plants. Manure Composting is suggested. 

Pellets: This is the end result of animals, which process their poop into pill form. Rabbits, alpacas, lamas tend to poop pellets. The basic difference between pellets and manure is that the pellets are less offensive to people who have to handle them. They aren’t as soft and smeary, and can be scooped up easily. They tend to be less prone to burning and can be sprinkled and spread out whole, like little garden vitamin pills. Only if you have enough to pile up should they need to be composted before application.

cowmanure.jpg (125x93 -- 2697 bytes)
cattle manure
deerpellets.jpg (125x93 -- 3230 bytes)
deer pellets
guanobag.jpg (60x93 -- 1869 bytes)
bat guano
sheepmanure.jpg (125x93 -- 3025 bytes)
sheep manure
rabbitpellets.jpg (125x93 -- 3737 bytes)
rabbit pellets

Guano: This is usually from airborne birds and bats that tend to flock together and poop all in one place. It is dropped from a great height. Which apparently increases its effectiveness in fertilizing the garden, given its popularity and price. This leads one to wonder if you simply dropped your local manure from a great height if it would have similar results. Guano is usually pre-packaged and labeled as to its contents, whether from desert bats, sea birds, or other source. Each source contains different nutrients, so read carefully before ordering.

Vermipost and frass: These are worm poop. The vermipost can be from earthworms of several different species…usually Eisenia Foetida (or red wiggler), or Lumbricus Rubellus. Frass, on the other hand is produced by a variety of insects. Caterpillar frass, silkworm frass, these can be used in the garden, but are usually restricted to hobbyists.

Other Great Soil Additions

Beyond the end product of animals, however, there are many sources, animal, vegetable, and mineral, which can help you create your perfect soil.

Peat Moss: A widely misunderstood substance. Peat moss has no nutritional value to it at all. It is quite acidic (hovers around 3 or 4 on the ph range), and is hydrophobic when dry. On the other hand, if you have compacted soil, or sandy, loose soil, it can be a beneficial additive. If your soil is too alkaline, it can also help. Just be sure to choose the chunky stuff, instead of the finely milled peat, or it will soon disappear.

Blood Meal: A fairly expensive and unstable source of nitrogen. It is made from slaughterhouse wastes. It leaches quickly, can burn plants unless handled carefully, and can encourage fungal growths. Best used mixed with more stabile (and less expensive) ingredients.

Bone Meal: Another expensive but popular by product of the animal industry. Bone meal is sold as both animal feed and fertilizer. It contains about 27% phosphate, and that is quickly available, so it is an effective amendment.

Fish Meal/Emulsions: Fish and fish parts are used to form a slurry in liquid. High in nitrogen and phosphate, the main drawback is the smell. There are odorless varieties, but even they can draw raccoons, bears, cats, dogs, and other animals to dig in a garden where used.

Shellfish meal: washed crab, shrimp, oyster, and other shellfish by products are pulverized to make this slow release but easily available form of nitrogen. Like the fish emulsion, the odor can be a problem.

Compost: If only there were a unified standard of compost. But compost varies widely from region to region. Some includes sewage sludge; some includes yard trimmings from areas that spray heavily. Even the Organic labeled composts can vary wildly in their contents. Still, if you are lacking in organic matter…Compost is one of the best solutions. Best to make your own, so you know what goes into it.

Mushroom Compost: Mushroom growers all use different forms of growing medium, Horse bedding straw, peat moss, crushed grape seeds, sawdust…There are as many varieties of mushroom compost as there are mushroom growers. The resultant spent compost can be heavy in salts and too high in nutrients for straight applications. They should be mixed with other, less strong amendments, or composted further before use.

Alfalfa meal: used as compost starter and straight as a source of nicely balanced fertilizer, alfalfa meal is rich in nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. It also encourages microbial activity in the soil

Feather Meal: An excellent slow release form of nitrogen. Feather meal from poultry processing plants break down very slowly, making them good not only for providing a slow, consistent form of nitrogen, but a good soil structure as well.

gypsumhands.jpg (125x110 -- 2546 bytes)
azomite.jpg (125x110 -- 3460 bytes)
greensandhand.jpg (125x110 -- 2882 bytes)
green sand
coconutcoir.jpg (125x110 -- 3773 bytes)
kelpmeal.jpg (125x110 -- 2760 bytes)
Kelp meal

Wood Ashes: Highly alkaline, and can contain traces of metals and plastics if you don’t know where it came from. It is still a good soil structure amendment and a good source of phosphorous and potash.

Green sand: Also known as Glauconite, greensand can be pricey. Its potash is generally very slowly released, but its magnesium and other trace nutrients greatly benefit fruiting and flowering plants. With this and with all rock based amendments, mixing with semi-composted or fresh manure can make the nutrients more readily available to plants.

Rock phosphate: Soft Rock phosphates are generally used, as Hard Rock phosphate is nearly impossible for the plants to utilize. Soft rock phosphates are usually from ancient marine deposits. Rock phosphate is best combined with a livestock or green manure to make it more available to the plants, and to stabilize the nitrogen. As it is very slow to release its phosphate, it is an excellent once a year product for your garden.

Rock dust: Sometimes referred to as Glacial Rock Dust, or Granite Dust. This product is best at buffering variables in the soil. The minerals in this dust are not available until the various acids and alkali in the soil begin working on them, but their stabilizing influence makes a noticeable difference.

Canola Meal and Flax seed Meal: A good Non-animal NPK for those who prefer not to use animal by products. Breaks down quickly, so should be applied about once a month during growing season. Also has some trace nutrients.

Gypsum: Fairly inexpensive, easy to apply source of calcium and sulfur. Gypsum can also help to improve sandy or clay soils which are plagued with salt residues and buildup.

Lime: Excellent source of calcium, but also quite alkaline. Often used with peat moss to counteract the acidity.

Sulfur: Usually used to lower the PH (increase the acidity) of soil. Can burn plants when over applied, but comes in mixes and stabilized forms with iron, magnesium and phosphorous…such as Ironite and Sul-Po-Mag which are safe and easy to use.

Kelp meal: Mostly this is for trace nutrients…though it contains trace amounts of the big three, the real benefit is in its large amount of trace minerals and its ability to mix with many other types of fertilizer.

neemcake.jpg (125x93 -- 4599 bytes)
neem cake
perlite.jpg (125x93 -- 2421 bytes)
rockphosphate.jpg (125x93 -- 3288 bytes)
rock phosphate
sphagpeatmoss.jpg (125x93 -- 2910 bytes)
peat moss
vermiculite2.jpg (125x93 -- 3213 bytes)

Neem Cake: Residue from neem oil pressing. Repels nematodes and is a good mild source of NPK. It is slightly oily so it helps to retain water in sandy soils.

Coir: Coir is a sustainable alternative to Peat Moss. It is ground coconut shell, and has a neutral ph, breaks down more slowly than Peat, and has a natural rooting hormone as a benefit. It is not hydrophobic when dry and isn’t so hard to re-wet.

Leaf mold: The finest source of trace nutrients is leaves. However, since sources vary in chemical application and type of leaf…it is wise to be cautious in its application, and expect public source to be slightly to heavily contaminated. Also keep an eye out for walnut, black walnut, hickory nut, and butternut juglone contamination. Use those only on juglone tolerant plantings.

Perlite: While perlite does have trace amounts of many nutrients, it is best used as a soil lightener. It can take a bit of rough and tumble and holds moisture while providing good drainage. Consider it the Popcorn of the rock world

Vermiculite: Like Perlite, Vermiculite gives up its nutrients grudgingly, so is best used as a soil structure provider. It is rather like the Puff Pastry of rocks, and though it is excellent at keeping soil light and fluffy when undisturbed, it can be squished flat, so is best used for gentle applications, like seed starting and pot mixes. Some mines have been found to contain trace amounts of asbestos, so care should be taken not to inhale the dust.

Cottonseed meal: should be an excellent source of nitrogen. However, a high amount of insecticides are sprayed on commercial cotton crops, so the cottonseed meal is not approved to be used on organic crops UNLESS it is from an organic cotton grower. Be cautious.

Soybean meal: Makes an expensive fertilizer, since most soybean meal is used for animal feed. There are other options that are just as good and much less pricey.

Kelp Meal: Kelp meal is an excellent source of trace nutrients that are readily available to the plant, including natural growth inducers. While it is easy to find in coastal areas, it can be harder to locate inland.

Langbeinite: An excellent source of Potassium and magnesium…but little else. It is strong, so should be used sparingly.

Azomite: A pink powdered rock, which contains around 70 trace nutrients and seems to be effective at repelling some pests.

Home ] Up ] Gardeners Anonymous ] [ Beyond Manure ] Suck it Up - Phytoremediation ] Soil Without Toil ] Cover Crops ]

[ Home ]  Site Map ]  Articles ]  The Garden ]  At Home ]  [ Message Boards Mirtha Stuwort ]  facebook ]

Copyright Our Garden Gang 1999-2016