The best organic fertilizer
Harvesting your own fertilizer can be a fun adventure. Make it a fun family time. And, it will save you money. Your soil will be improved when you add homegrown fertilizer (aka, poop) to your soil. It just takes a little preparation.
How to harvest your own fertilizer
Wear old clothes and closed shoes
You sure don’t want it squishing over your sandals and between your toes! Even if it’s hot, I suggest that you wear long pants or jeans. I also pack a long-sleeve men’s button up shirt to go over whatever shirt I am wearing. You can find cotton “dress” shirts at second hand stores for cheap. They work well to shield you from strong summer sun too.
Prepare your vehicle
I have a small SUV. Yes, I haul this stuff in my car! Whenever you change out an old shower curtain, keep it. It can be used to line the seats or back of your car for times like this. I keep several old curtains and sheets stored in my garden shed for this purpose. If you are using the family car or SUV, you’ll want to line your seats and the back of the car (if it’s an SUV) with several layers of your old sheets, blankets or old shower curtains. When you unload the car, you will thank me for this bit of advice! Some of the manure will have spilled, no matter how careful you are.
Pack a shovel
I know this is obvious, but I have to say it….don’t expect your manure host to stop what they are doing and find a shovel for you. Go as prepared as you can. Farmers and ranchers are very busy and will appreciate it when you simply introduce yourself and prove that you are independent and can manage harvesting the manure on your own.
Disposable containers for manure
An incredibly durable bag I have found for this chore is already at the farm! Feed bags hold an amazing amount of weight. They are sturdy and will endure a season outdoors. The source shown in this picture did not have feed bags, so I had a friend save some for me. If the place where you are headed to does not have feed bags, other sources are horse stables, feed stores, cattle or dairy farms, or homesteads that have farm animals.
A cool feature about these bags is that they will hold their shape, unlike plastic garbage bags. You can put a shovel full of manure in the bottom and then, it will stand up on it’s own. The bag will usually stay open so you can continue to put more in. I fill mine about three-fourths of the way full.
Aged manure ONLY!
For several years, I got my composted manure from a guinea pig farm. This is a picture of three piles of compost from the guinea pig farm. The pile that is on the right is fresh-don’t use that for your garden now but it could be used as mulch for shrubs but be forewarned! It will stink for several days! The middle one is a few months old and is ok to use if you are giving your soil a few more months to continue to break it down. If you add either of those ages of manure into your soil, the nutrients will be bound until the soil organisms have time to digest it. The pile on the far left, the one that is the darkest, is about two years old. It has broken down to the point where the nutrients are readily available for all those wonderful little organisms, insects, and earthworms in your soil to digest. Then, your plants will enjoy the boost soon after you incorporate it into your soil.
Don’t harvest after a rainstorm!
Dry compost is so much easier to shovel and pack into your vehicle. If you ever get the leakage of wet manure into your car, you will have a big chore trying to wash it out of the carpet! Trust me, you won’t want to just leave it to dry. Besides, most soil around these large piles turn to a slick mass that tires cannot grab, and you may have to have a tractor pull you out. Yeah, that happened to me! And what if the farmer had not been home? Ugh.
To see how to incorporate your compost into your soil, see my blog, https://seasonsofdevotion.com/how-to-prepare-your-soil/
You could use chicken manure but I have heard stories from people that it builds up a toxic level of nitrogen into the soil that can also take a long time to recover from the toxicity. Therefore, I do not recommend it unless you spread only as much as you imagine a few chickens would do as if they were “tilling” your garden for you.
If you are the super duper adventurous one, and you want to get “patties” from the pasture, go for it. But, you will need to let that compost for at least a year. It’s best to turn it and stir it every few weeks too. This will allow for any disease that could be in it to die. Organisms will break it down over the course of the year and make the nutrients easily available for your plants after the organisms do their job.
This silly picture is true! I decided to use rabbit poop for my Spring garden in 2020. I found a 4H girl who raised rabbits for her long-term project. She bagged up ten bags for me! I was happy to support her. The sign? She lives two hours away! It was a nice road trip. The ten bags of manure fertilized that big garden, a small winter garden and now, this Spring garden for 2021. It works amazingly well.
Rabbit manure does not have to age before using it. It breaks down slowly which can be both a good thing and a bad thing. If you notice yellowing around the edges of leaves, it may be a lack of nitrogen in the soil. Hard rabbit pellets may not break down quick enough to help. The way around that is to stir it around in the soil near the base of your plant and keep the soil moist.
For just a little
A garden journal is exactly what you need to keep track of what worked and what didn’t. All this is done for you! For just a little, you can get a printable document that’s got you covered from your seed wish list to your harvest records. There are 39 pages of charts, record keeping, garden map grids, and lots of pages for your garden journaling about the garden in general as well as the individual veggies and fruit that you are growing. It’s only $4.99! You can find out more details and order it here and get started right away. (A digital version is also available in the shop.)
Manure tea is the quickest way to boost nitrogen levels in your soil organically. It’s quick and easy to do. You will need a five gallon bucket. Mine are old buckets that had whole wheat in them. You may be able to buy a bucket from a bakery. Some hardware stores carry them too.
Put one shovel full of manure in the bottom of the bucket. Add water to within six inches from the top. Let it sit for at least twenty-four hours. If you stir it a few times while it is “brewing”, it will help break up the manure. This “tea” can be used any time after then but I recommend that you use it within seven days. It has a tendency to grow stuff! EEeewww.
Veggies that love manure tea
Veggies that love manure tea are the veggies that need a lot of nitrogen. I use it for corn on a weekly basis or as soon as I see stripes or yellowing in the leaves. All of the “green” family of mustard greens, broccoli, and cabbage will do well with this extra nitrogen. Tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and melons like it too. Don’t overdo it because too much nitrogen can also cause an imbalance.
Veggies that don’t love manure tea
Actually, all veggies will love manure tea. They will make amazing bushes. But they need other nutrients in order to produce the “fruit”. In other words, don’t boost beans and peas. If you do, you may not get beans! Lovely plants, but no beans. This is a good example of why a little research will help you know how much and what kind of nutrients the particular veggie needs in order to be very productive.
Grab your shovel, your old sheets or shower curtains, and your bags. The trip to the farm is very rewarding, in more ways than one.
Veteran Homeschooler, avid gardener, and proud grandma
I believe that you can design a peaceful lifestyle while you homeschool, complete with a garden if you want, and meals that will make the best memories you ever could imagine!
I homeschooled seven kids through high school, starting them all with a lot of planned, hands-on activities. Then, I centered subjects around the activities. That gave them lots of room for their natural curiosity to be satisfied as they learned about God’s world.
Let me help you teach kids, grow food, and stay calm!