Photo © Pam Walatka
Left-to-right: spade, trowel, shovel.
Photo © Pam Walatka
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Manure in Organic Gardening
April 17, 2017
If you use manure as fertilizer in your garden, you are following one of the most ancient
and natural agricultural practices in the history of mankind.
Manure, like oxygen, exemplifies a core working principle of nature: animal waste is good for plants,
and plant waste is good for animals. Plants give off oxygen, which animals need. Animals give off
carbon dioxide, which plants need. Animals poop manure as waste. Plants love manure.
When my mom, a super-gardener, was 100 years old, I asked her if she had used much manure in her garden.
She said, “It was the main thing I used.” (I have no excuse for not asking her earlier.)
Here are some tips for using manure
- After five decades of organic gardening, I now buy manure in sacks at the hardware or garden store.
Mom did the same. Manure in sacks is easy, not very smelly, and bug-free.
- If you would rather get free manure, take some sacks or big buckets or a truck to a stable
Where horses, cows, and chickens are living, manure is a waste product. Get permission before
you start shoveling.
Or raise your own livestock.
- Use manure only from plant-eating animals, such as chickens, horses, cows, and bunnies.
Poop from meat-eating animals, such as dogs, cats, and pigs, may contain harmful pathogens
that do not decompose.
Bunnies make great manure, relatively clean and neat. If you keep a bunny, just
shovel up the stuff under the cage.
- Fresh manure needs to be composted (decomposed) before you put it on your garden.
- If you have a big garden and want a lot of manure, you can have it delivered by the truckload.
- Fresh/free manure tends to be full of flies and fly eggs. That is the main reason I buy my manure
in bags now.
- You can add manure to your compost pile. See
- You can spread manure a couple of inches thick over your garden bed; then use a shovel
to turn the manure into the dirt. If you are working around plants already growing in the bed,
use a trowel (small hand shovel). After turning in the manure, top the bed with a few inches
- To turn the manure in with a shovel, place the shovel tip on the soil and hold the handle
straight up. Put your well-shod foot on the foot rest (the top of the blade). Push decisively.
When the blade is almost buried, lift the blade-full of dirt and then turn the blade over, dumping the
dirt back into its hole, but upside down. This is called cultivating.
You will be adding these things to your soil:
- Nutrients. Manure is fertilizer, food for your plants.
- Air. Roots grow better in soil that is not too compacted.
- Humus (not to be confused with hummus). Decomposed manure contains decayed plant matter,
which is vital to organic gardening.