massive piles of used guinea pig shavings
Blog,  Successful Garden,  Winter

How to Harvest Your Own Fertilizer

Harvesting your own fertilizer can be a fun adventure. Make it a fun family time. And, it will save you money. It just takes a little preparation.

Obviously, you’ll want to wear old clothes and closed toe shoes.

You sure don’t want it squishing over your sandals and between your toes! 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 old sheets or blankets or a couple of old shower curtains.

Be sure to pack a shovel!

My post about preparing your soil explains what you will be doing with the fertilizer once you get it. Read about it here:

To prepare to prepare(!) you soil, you will need to get the things that you are going to enrich your soil with. Organic manure is one of the things you will need.

You will need to find something to put the manure in.

An incredibly durable type of bags I have found for this chore is used feed bags. You can find them at horse stables, feed stores, cattle or dairy farms, homesteads where there are goats, sheep, or chickens. The bags hold up well and can be used multiple times. I like how they stand up once you put the first couple of shovel fulls in. I know, weird to get excited about a feed bag but if you have ever used them, you will understand! feed bag in front of old mulch pile

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.

Be sure the mulch is at least one year old.

I get my composted manure from a guinea pig farm. The featured image 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,

Chicken manure: 

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 woulddi do if they were “tilling” your garden for you.

Cow manure:

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.

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.




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