Manure the Merrier. Animal By-Products To Help Your Garden Grow

Now I’ve been accused of it a few times in my less than illustrious career but just for once, yes… I am actually talking manure. Manure, that most natural of animal by-products, is a commodity considered by the gardening fraternity to be as valuable as saffron… though not as nice when mixed into your Risotto alla Milanese.

It’s great for your roses, your veggies, and for keeping your seeds safe from the pesky birds. With the seeds safely in the ground, (assuming you have got them in the ground) covering them with manure will keep the birds – in in fact probably everyone – from going near your plot

Manure might seem very old school in these days of pellet fertilisers and contemporary agricultural science but hundreds of years of vegetable growing have shown that manure is a seriously good fertiliser. Let’s face it, apart from anything else it is generally organic and, generally, plentiful.

Manure Vending Machine...
Manure Vending Machine…

I find it quite amazing that just a few miles outside any town and city there is this huge outdoor moo-ing work-force making first-class natural fertiliser and it’s so easy to get hold of. I was brought up in the country and that smell was always present on the wind, the great smell of cows. Never bothered me at all. Beats car fumes.

So. Where to get hold of it… so to speak. You can use horse manure too of course as well as cow. Your local riding stables or nearby farm will have a supply. If you live in or around Cambridge you might even be able to get some thoroughbred manure from the training stables down the road  –  though I cannot guarantee that thoroughbred horse manure produces Grand National quality carrots.

Straight from the horses...er..mouth?
Straight from the horses…er..mouth

Mind you, I, personally, rather like the revolutionary notion that a famous race-horse, let’s say Desert Orchid for the sake of argument, should not just be put out to stud on retirement but also put out to poo, creating expensive, premium, award-winning manure that ensures first past the post potatoes and cup winning cabbage.

However, in reality, it’s unlikely that it would make any difference, just as long as you have some idea where your manure is coming from and that it is not full of pesticides, chemicals or any other nasties. It is certainly worth trying to find out the provenance of any manure you get locally, is the farmer organic? Is it fresh? Is it from well-fed cows or horses? In fact, while we are at it., here are a few general manure-based tips…

  • Try to use mature, well-composted manure in the growing season, particularity if you are growing vegetables. Too fresh manure dumped on your garden and the chemicals, phosphorous, nitrogen and ammonia can burn and damage your soil and bacteria could get into your crops.  You can mature it yourself and compost it well before you pop it on your garden.
  • Don’t use too much. This can lead to, believe it or not, too many nutrients in the soil and you can have too much of a good thing.
  • Try to avoid manure that is very green. This will have a high level of cellulose which can hi-jack the nutrients you need from the soil by taking it for itself.
  • Only ever use manure from herbivores
  • You can often buy bagged and composted manure from garden centres

OK. Now I have to go and spread some of my own… from my compost heap that is …  on my own garden so time to go. Next time we could talk about foliar feed, but that would be taking the….ahem…enjoy your garden.

Drew Hardy

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