Do you know that when you have livestock – even if it’s just a couple of pet rabbits – you have your own little fertilizer goldmine? Yes it’s true, there is tremendous value in poo! Now, if you do a simple internet search you will get contradicting opinions. so here’s my disclaimer: I am not an agricultural expert and I can only tell you about my experience. And in my opinion, it is THE BEST thing we put on our flower beds and gardens.
Last week I wrote about how I put together my little raised beds but I didn’t say much about the rest of my garden plot. I live on an acre of land with dreadful soil. It is clay and rocks, doesn’t drain well when it rains, and turns into cement in the summer. I have been sloooooooowly rebuilding the areas where I plant over the last few years by adding compost and letting the chickens scratch (natures little roto-tillers) and drop their little poo bombs all over the place. It started paying off big time last year with the best crop of tomatoes I have ever had. I harvested at least a couple hundred pounds for canning off of 15 or so plants and there was a bunch that went to the chickens for snacks.
The great thing about goat and rabbit manure is that it doesn’t have to be composted (this is where you will find the most diverse opinions). It doesn’t smell bad and it can go right on the garden because it’s not a ‘hot’ manure like horse or chicken – meaning it won’t burn the plants because of too much nitrogen. Ours is all mixed in with the wasted hay that they turn into bedding and that helps loosen up the soil as it gets worked in. (Goats are notorious hay wasters – they eat all the leafy bits and seed heads and then drop the stems. We don’t have to buy straw for bedding though so it all works out well) So far I haven’t had weeds sprout out of the goat and rabbit manure which is another huge plus. I learned the hard way about horse manure one year. Someone brought me a load and told me it was ready to go on the garden but it was not. There were ripe seeds in it and I didn’t know any better. Years later I am still trying to eradicate the nasty weeds that sprung up out of that.
What we usually do is put a thick layer on in the fall after we clean out the old plants. It percolates and breaks down all winter and then in the early spring I add another layer. Ideally I get that done a month before planting but it doesn’t always work out that way because spring weather is unpredictable around here.. If the soil is not compacted I just go ahead and plant. If the soil needs worked up we run the tiller over it to break up the clumps. Then I just put my seedlings in and put a nice layer of used bedding around them to keep the weeds down and that’s it. I don’t worry about pathogens because I figure that the hot sun will bake them and the rains will wash whatever is left into the dirt.
Now even if you don’t have your own fertilizer plant, there are plenty of farmers around who have way more than they can use. Ask around, check the bulletin boards at local feed stores, or maybe even put an ad up on Craig’s List. Nobody will think you are weird. And if you don’t have a truck, sometimes they are happy to deliver for a small fee, or you can just take a few 5-gallon buckets and a shovel to the farm and they will show you where to scoop.
Better yet, get yourself a couple of rabbits. They can totally be just pets if you aren’t into growing your own meat, they are easy to care for, and pretty cheap to purchase. You will make your garden happy and it will thank you with the best produce you ever had.