The by-product of keeping animals is the one thing that all gardeners love. All that good food going in will come out as a second blessing. Manure means food for plants. Well fed plants means a great garden and a better harvest. But there are some rules about using manure correctly and knowing which types work best for the type of gardens we grow.
Some swear by horse manure, while others would never touch it, preferring chicken or cow manures instead. Every gardener has their preference but they all have some fabulous benefits.
Three Basic Elements
Manure provides three important elements:
Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) are essential for maintaining plant health.
This is written as N-P-K in many gardening books and on fertilizer containers.
- Nitrogen promotes strong roots, green stems and lots of leaves. It produces the protein to help the plant build living tissue.
- Phosphorus helps to move the energy throughout the plant.
- Potassium (e.g.Potash and Epsom Salts) is a little more a mystery to modern science, but we do know that it helps plants to grow faster and stronger, fight off disease, resist pests and produce more crops.
Did you know that...
Rabbit manure is high in Nitrogen?
Pig manure is very acidic?
Alpaca manure is the least smelly and lowest in organic matter?
Pigeon manure is premium gold for the garden? (4.2 - 3.0 - 1.5)
Do not use household animal manures, such as cat and dog as their faeces are likely to contain more pathogens harmful to humans. Always stick to 'barn' animals and birds.
Some manures improve the soil structure while others improve the vigorous growth.
Choosing a lower N-P-K level manure with a higher organic matter can be excellent for soil structure.
Applying manure prior to planting and at different growing stages will help your plants take up nutrients.
Remember to check your soil pH levels regularly as heavy applications of manure over a long period of time can make the soil acidic.
All manure should be dried before being dug through as fresh manure is likely to 'burn' plant roots.
Fresh chicken manure around the base of a tomato plant will mean plant death by the next day. But applying dried chicken manure to the soil prior to planting will result is a flourishing tomato plant and harvest.