Organic Fertilizers – Part II

Moo-Nure by OldOnliner

Cow manure is a good all purpose organic manure with a good balance of nutrients. It is lower in Nitrogen than other manures so it doesn’t burn plants. It might have a high salt content because cows are given salt to lick, so don’t use too much at one time. If you have a dairy or beef farm near your property, see if you can get some of their cow manure. Again, ask if it is aged or composted because you should wait at least a month before planting with cow manure. It can take up to a year to compost manures, depending on the climate. Colder, wet climates require more time for the manure to sufficiently decay to be safely used for gardening. Aging or composting manures kills the pathogens in it, making it safe for home gardens. Fresh cow manure is high in E. coli and protozoa that the plants can take up from their roots, or the bacteria can splash on their leaves from watering or rainfall.Composting cow manure involves spreading it into shallow piles and letting it decay.

Read more: Cow Manure for Plants |

Unlike horse manure, cow manure has few weed seeds in it. This is because cows chew their cud and the food passes through 4 digestive departments inside the cow’s stomach region which pretty much eliminates seeds passing through into the manure. My parents also used cow manure on their farm so I wish I knew a farmer in the area that sold aged cow manure. But this is a product that can be bought bagged in nurseries or stores that sell fertilizers. You can use the bagged products as a mulch though some people have told me there is an odor.

Popular fertilizers being sold today are Worm Castings. It is also called vermicompost. It is odorless. It doesn’t burn plants even if used fresh. It is high in Nitrogen and it is said to be good at stimulating microbial growth in the soil and it fights soil diseases. You can either make your own by using the castings of worms that break down your garbage or buy it dry in bags in in liquid form. The best way to apply it is by making a tea by mixing the worm castings with water and spraying the plants with the water. And if you can get some of the aeration devices for aerating the worm tea for a few days before spraying, the worm tea is supposed to be even more effective for treating the plants. There are many websites listing companies that sell worm castings. This Garden Lady buys bags of worm castings every year to make the tea to feed her plants.

Another good source of fertilizer that my parents used is chicken manure. Chicken manure provides Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium to your plants (more than horse, cow or steer manure). If you raise your own chickens, one of the hottest things to do these days, your average-sized hen can produce 1 cubic foot of manure every six months. This is one of the quickest manures to break down so it doesn’t have to be composted that long but should be composted for a few months to get rid of any parasites and to reduce burning plants. It is best to compost it with the bedding material used in the chicken coop. It is high in urea nitrogen content so it is good for growing greens. If you have a small garden, be warned that if you age or compost your own chicken manure it can smell like a urinal if it rains.  See here.

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