Incorporating Manure in your Home Vegetable Garden

comments (0) March 14th, 2012

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MikeTheGardener MikeTheGardener, member
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I was reading an article the other day in Mother Earth News magazineabout a family in California that made a lifestyle change to be more self reliant and work hard towards being more self sustaining. One of the portions of the article talked about the important role their chickens played in tilling the land and adding their own manure to it so that they can grow fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs in fertile soil. 

It got me thinking about how every home vegetable gardener can incorporate manure into their own gardens, regardless of how big or small it may be. I am not saying to go out and get a flock of chickens anytime soon, although I know many of you do have them, but more so, what steps can you take to use manure in your own garden, to make sure your soil contains the nutrients it needs to keep producing great tasting vegetables, fruits and herbs.

For help on this topic, I turned to Todd Heft who is the writer of theBig Blog of Gardening. Todd has been gardening for most of his life and focuses in on organic gardening, of which he feels manure must be a part of if you want to add the nutrients to your soil that your plants need to grow.

Todd believes horse manure is the way to go. “First of all, new-to-manure folks should understand that there is no wicked smell from horse manure - not like your dog's waste. Horses eat a variety of vegetables and no meat so there are no offending parasites or bacteria in the waste to create a foul smell,” says Todd.

Todd also says that you should get a manure/straw mixture. This type of mixture is what many owners of horse stables in his area are trying to get rid of. The straw lightens the mixture and that helps break the manure down faster.

Give the manure a couple of months to sit so it will break down before you add it to your home vegetable garden. This also helps in making sure that “rogue pathogens” are killed as the manure pile heats up.

One of the best and maybe not thought about sources of finding good quality manure in your area is Craigslist. Todd hits Craigslist every spring to look for stables that want to give it away. Stables need to unload this “stuff” and they simply can’t throw it in the garbage so many will gladly give it to you if you are willing to go and pick it up. Todd is fortunate in his area that he has had been able to find stables willing to deliver it for a bucks to cover the cost of gas.

I took Todd’s Craigslist challenge myself and did a search in my area for free manure. The list was longer then I had ever thought and I didn’t even realize horse stables existed in some of the towns that came up in the search. Do your own search right now and you will see for yourself.

Now that you know what type of manure you should get and where to get it, it’s time to add it to the garden. So when should you do it? Manure should season first. Fresh manure added to your garden will create an unstable environment for the plants. Seasoned manure which has been broken down is better. What I learned is that if you have fresh manure and do not have the space to have a pile of it sitting around (or maybe the neighbors won’t appreciate it), add your manure in at the end of your growing season after your plants are done producing and then til it in. If you have seasoned manure, adding it in to your soil a week or two prior to planting should be ok.

“I also recommend adding your kitchen scraps to manure to create a fantastic compost,” says Todd. “One should also use an organic fertilizer. Manure can be a little light on the nitrogen side so it's good to add seaweed, bone meal or fish emulsion to insure success.”

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posted in: garden, vegetable, fertilizer, manure, horse, cow