I love the scene in the television show Seinfeld where character George Costanza, played by actor Jason Alexander, is talking to a female named Kelly, played by actress Tracy Kolis, about his love of the word manure. The funny line is, “when you consider the other choices, manure, is pretty refreshing.” Of course Kelly cuts the date short as she finds talking about the subject pretty strange.
Had Kelly been a vegetable gardener she might have gone off on a tangent as to the wonderful benefits manure has for your home vegetable garden. I guess the “show about nothing” did not want to take that route.
Manure from the proper sources (I’ll get to that in a moment) presents you with a great opportunity to add much needed nutrients back into the soil and with seasoned manure from these same sources, you can brew a wonderful elixir called manure tea. We’ll cover manure tea sometime in the future.
Here is how manure works to benefit your home vegetable garden. Manure is nothing more than organic matter that contains tremendous amounts of nutrients your vegetable plants can use, such as nitrogen. However, in order for your plants to use those nutrients they must be released from the manure. The only way this can occur is to have a higher life form feed on the manure (yeah I know it sounds gross) such as worms that then release their own castings that plants then use. This is just a basic overview of course.
There are both good and bad manures that you need to know about. Your dog, cat and human manure is bad. It can be toxic to your plants as well as the underlying ecosystem. Do not use these manures. Good manure comes from sources such as cows, horses, chickens and other types of grain or grass fed live stock.
Now that you know how manure works and what the good types of manure are, the next obvious step is to know how to add it to your home vegetable garden. Simply add the manure to your garden and mix it in with your soil. The important part, which I will get into in a moment, is knowing exactly at what time of the year you should be adding it. Make sure you mix it in thoroughly with a pitchfork, broad fork or tiller.
This step is crucial in the adding stage and that is what time of the year should it go in. If you have fresh manure, meaning it is less than 6 months old (yeah I know who keeps the dates on this stuff), then it is recommended that you mix the manure into your soil at the end of your growing season, which for most of us is in the autumn months. If you have seasoned manure then you should add it no later than 4 weeks before planting. This gives it plenty of time to start releasing all of those wonderful nutrients.
So where do you get manure? You could buy it at a local home or garden center, but why do that if you can get it for free from a local horse or cow farm. Just check on websites such as Craigslist in the farm and garden section. Also, if you do find someone that is willing to give you some manure, make sure the livestock are not fed with any types of grain or feed that contain chemicals. Those chemicals could be passed to the manure.
There is no question that adding manure to your home vegetable garden has tremendous benefits. Knowing where to get it, what kind to use and how to add it is just as important to know.
About the Author
Mike is the administrator for the largest vegetable gardening group on Facebook and the very popular Seeds of the Month Club. You can now join the Seeds of the Month Club risk-free.