ANITA B. STONE: Old-Style Gardening, With Manure
I have been so intrigued by the difference between synthetic fertilizers and old-fashioned manure that it's worth a test.
There is certainly plenty of manure in the area -- and I mean that in a nice way -- that is available to the public. With all the horse facilities around, a gardener can assuredly locate manure. So why should we use manure?
While there are many new ideas that make life easier and faster, sometimes the old-fashioned methods work well and get the job done. At least that's how I see it from a gardener's viewpoint when it comes to fertilizing my garden.
I don't necessarily require a large package of tiny granules that make me sneeze when I manage to pry open the bag. Nor do I relish tucking the remaining contents somewhere invisible so none of my grandchildren or animals play "I Spy" or "Hide and Seek" and discover this toxic material.
Ideally, I can feed my plants with manure and not have to worry about toxic chemicals. Pound for pound, I receive organic materials that build soil structure -- something store-bought fertilizers cannot do.
I never gave much thought to manure, as I'm sure most people don't, but many factors influence the nutrition of manure. This includes the food eaten by the animal, the type and age of the animal and the moisture content. It's also relevant as to the way the manure has been handled or stored.
Many studies have been performed to find out the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K) commonly found in animal manures. These percentages may not seem like a lot, but they have a definite impact on the soil and the way the plants respond.
Poultry manure appears to have the highest content of N-P-K, followed by sheep. This does not mean that horse manure is less than good fertilizer for plants. One year I purchased several bags of manure from one of the Seven Lakes stables. My plants showed optimum growth from that purchase. It was the quality, rather than the quantity that assisted my garden that year. Percentages of manure are low, but they have a strong impact and a small amount goes a long way.
My latest endeavor has been to study the science of biodynamics and homeopathic compost. It has been said that conventional farming is like drowning in water. But organic farming is like treading water. This intriguing area explores the interaction of nature and influences between the natural world and its greater surroundings. It not only covers sustainable agriculture and organic growth, but it teaches us that by using nature we can grow some of the most delightful crops without the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.
In the fall, a cow's horn may be filled with cow manure, then buried in the topsoil. Over a period of time the manure breaks down and turns into crumbly compost. We cannot watch this process, but it works because there are definite forces that prove the end result.
After all, in the beginning, plants grew without any artificial addition from the soil, which was formed of material from the mountains. Perhaps if we restore natural conditions for plant growth, we might prevent numerous health problems and yield sufficient nourishment for a satisfactory -garden crop.
Now the hunt begins for a cow's horn. I'm debating whether or not to put it on my wish list.
Anita Stone is a Raleigh freelance writer. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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