Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tales of Gardening with animal excrements

Been doing lots of gardening (instead of blogging), and loving it.
Every day after work I'm digging in my garden, which means I get my hands dirty with soil and all kinds of organic matter, which entails a fair amount of manure -- a fancy word for animal shit.

Wikipedia defines Manure as organic fertilizer: "Manures contribute to the fertility of the soil by adding organic matter and nutrients, such as nitrogen that is trapped by bacteria in the soil. Higher organisms then feed on the fungi and bacteria in a chain of life that comprises the soil food web."

I love teaching about the soil food web for my job, and now I'm really getting into practicing manipulating it in my garden!

We now have 5 brand-new vegetable beds on top of the glacial till that passes for our backyard. And best of all, I've managed to fill them all with something other than rocks (I will post some pix soon, I promise)!
Yes, for the first 2 beds I did spend big bucks at the greenhouse for several bags of soil, but that got expensive -- so I started looking at alternatives. I starting digging some soil from the surrounding forest, and from a former flower bed that is now covered by our expanded deck. I also keep harvesting castings (poop) from my worm bins. But most significantly, Eldest and I and hauled a pick-up load of horse manure that was free at a local stable, plus she arranged another load of topsoil/compost from a friend in the Valley.

I'm really "into" organic gardening, and therefore I garden with animal excrements. My favorite sources: worms, chicken and horses.

The worms are doing a wonderful job turning my kitchen waste into compost. It's been easy as pie: every couple of days the kids take the kitchen scraps (vegetables, etc) to the garage, where we always have a couple of big Rubbermaid boxes that serve as worm boxes -- all they need is some bedding (newspaper), moisture (not too much) and air (holes drilled into the box). All the work is done by the thousands of red wigglers, and it doesn't even smell bad at all!
When I need compost, I just "harvest".

The horse manure we got is also great. It's from this past winter, but seems to have aged enough not to have any pungent aroma. The stuff we picked up for free was basically horse turds with lots of straw and wood chips. I mixed a lot of it into my new garden beds, and also started using it for a top dressing on the potatoes -- I'll see how that works! I doubt it's any richer than grass clippings (which makes a great mulch, as long as it's not full of weed seeds!), so hopefully I won't be "burning" my veggies... I do break up the horse turds along the way (I actually enjoy that -- yes, it's a little weird), and so far the veggies are growing wonderfully.
Wish me luck!


honeypiehorse said...

I keep wanting to start a garden but know nothing. Does it count if my cat poops in the bushes?

PattyP said...

Dont'cha just love making dirt? My compost pile has rewarded me time and again this year. Every time i dig in it, I'm amazed at what it is/was.