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Past Articles Library | Organic Fertilizer


There are many different types of fertilizer.  This can range from the inorganic type that is cooked up in a chemical lab to the kind that Mother Nature produces.  The key to using Mother Nature’s fertilizer is understanding the concept of manure.

Manure is a waste product that is produced by every living organism.  It can come in many forms from fish emulsion to worm casings to the traditional type that is processed at sewage treatment plants.  To understand  “poop” one needs to realize the history of its use.

Manure has been used for centuries in many different cultures as a way of improving a plants health or increasing the yield.  Animals that were used to till the soil would add manure to the ground throughout their working day. Human waste was also used, as workers would relieve themselves in the fields.  This progressed to sewage treatment plants allowing the sludge from the water to be collected and sprayed on fields as a fertilizer.

Today, the use of human waste is not used in the United States as a fertilizer.  Swine, beef, dairy, sheep, poultry, turkey, horse, and rabbit manures are still used.  When using these types of fertilizers, first make sure it is well seasoned.  Green manure or uncured manure is not recommended.  This type of manure is too hot to use and will burn the plants.  Green manure needs to be seasoned at least one year before using but not all manures need to be seasoned.  Swine, beef, dairy, sheep, and horse are all manures that need to be seasoned while poultry and rabbit manures can be used right out of the animal.    Also, very fresh manure can be contaminated with weed seeds and the process of curing can kill these seeds.  This will prevent contaminating the garden area.

Other forms of manure exist that can be found in unique places.  Many zoos sell their exotic animal manures along with some wild animal rehabilitation facilities.  This includes elephant, zebra, ostrich, and wildcat scat.

Never use cat or dog manure in a garden where food will be grown.  Both of these are great forms of manure but have been found to carry diseases that can be taken up by plants.  Another unique use for cat scat is to keep rabbits away from the garden.  To utilize cat scat for this purpose, is as simple as scattering it around the flowerbed or in the yard.  The aroma of this type of manure will keep rodents away without keeping friends at bay.

Before applying the manure to the garden have it chemical tested.  This is done very similar to a soil test and will indicate the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium level.  Most manure is high in phosphorus and potassium but not nitrogen.

If applying manure directly to the garden soil is going to be a problem with the neighbors or your forte is container gardening, then make manure tea.  This tea is not for human consumption but plants love it.  Placing manure in a burlap bag and tying it off starts the process of making manure tea.  Place the burlap bag in a barrel of water and let it steep for one week.  Once the week has passed, remove the bag and place its contents in the compost bin.  Then use the water to irrigate the garden, flowerbeds, or container gardens. 

The most important thing to remember when it comes to using manure as a fertilizer is to always wash the produce before eating.  This will eliminate any chance of getting sick from manure contaminated vegetables and/or fruits.


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