Using Manure As Fertilizer, Safely & Cleanly

Whether you are growing your own veggies to help reduce the effects of global warming by minimizing food miles, or so you can have tastier food, you should be using manure as a fertilizer.  It may sound disgusting and unhygienic but using animal manure as fertilizer is a practice that’s probably as old as agriculture and it’s something that’s still very widely popular today, both in large-scale farming and in suburban gardens. It’s quite possible to grow healthy plants cleanly using manure fertilizers and it shouldn’t be discounted for food crops.

Synthetic fertilizers may seem like a more hygienic alternative to using manure in the garden, but actually some of the chemicals involved can be very nasty and the potential hazards are if anything even greater. Artificial fertilizers and pesticides also contribute to a wealth of environmental problems from soil degradation to toxic algal blooms in downstream lakes and rivers. In people, high concentrations of synthetic agrochemicals can cause serious health problems and even birth defects. If properly used, poo is a better, healthier alternative.

Horse manure can be bought from any riding school or stables for a very small fee or sometimes taken away for free. Usually there is some straw mixed in but this is an asset rather than a problem. The two together can make an excellent mulch if allowed to rot down. Proper rotting will also kill off pathogens that might be harmful to humans.

Poultry manure can be bought from most garden centres or begged from anyone who keeps chickens or ducks for the eggs. This is strong stuff and a little goes a long way. In fact, it’s so strong that chicken manure can actually ‘burn’ plants and harm soil, so it’s best kept for species that really like their nitrogen. Like other manures it should be rotted down before application to garden beds.

To do that, build a manure pile at least 3ft high and turn it with a garden fork every couple of weeks. Unfortunately the pile has to be that big or it won’t generate enough internal heat to break down properly. The warmer the weather, the quicker the decomposition process will be. Keep the pile reasonably moist but not soaking wet. Horse manure can take as little as a month to make the transition from poo to compost, but stronger varieties like chicken manure can take up a year. Horse manure also smells a lot less than that of pigs or poultry.

The finished compost will look more or less like a rich, dark soil. It shouldn’t smell of anything but earth and it can be spread fairly thickly on garden beds and used to grow anything you like- potatoes, peas, roses, or corn. There may still be bits of straw and other material, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the compost isn’t ready.

One thing to watch for in garden beds that have been treated with manure is weed plants. Seeds often pass through an animal’s digestive tract undamaged and can then germinate. However, regular weeding is essential for optimum growth of vegetables and ornamental plants anyway so it’s always a good idea to make that a regular task.

Some research has shown that antibiotics and growth hormones used in animal agriculture can be passed through into manure and hence into the soil it’s applied to. The idea of a chemical being passed through a horse or a chicken and hence into your fruit and veg may seem pretty extreme but it is possible. However, the issue can be avoided by sourcing your manure from organic farms or local stables. Avoid slurry and fertilizer products from large scale agro-businesses.

No matter where you get your vegetables from, be it your own garden or the supermarket, they should always be washed before being eaten or cooked. Avoiding manure contamination is certainly no more difficult than making sure all traces of harmful synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are removed from fruit and vegetables before they reach your table.

Author Bio: Jess Spate is a keen gardener and sustainable business consultant for Appalachian Outdoors and Fountain Spirit. She now lives in Wales, but grew up in rural Australia, where her family still grow their own vegetables with animal manure fertilizer.

Distribution Info:?Content distribution done on behalf of Christine Cooney, publisher of house plan designs & floor plan designs.

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