by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Manure’s most important contribution to the garden is that it adds organic matter to the soil much like compost and peat, or the, supposedly eco-friendly alternative, coir.

Peat and peat composts are, in fact, something that should be avoided as far as possible due to the fact that the use of them depletes the bogs from where it is cut.

For some strange reason it took a million Pound study for the British government to “discover” that manure is needed for a healthy soil and that using chemical “fertilizers” actually leaches nutrients from the soil. Any organic gardener and farmer could have told them that for free. In fact, they have done so for ages.

The best time to add manure to soil is autumn, but it can also be added in early spring before planting. Add 2 to 3 inches of manure to the soil and mix it into the top 6 to 9 inches of soil, well into the root zone. Do not add manure if you expect to harvest vegetables within two months or so of adding the manure to the soil. Also note that the pH of the soil may change with the addition of manure to the garden.

Not all manure should be used in the garden. While cow, horse, goat, sheep, rabbit, and poultry manures are all safe to use, manure from dogs, cats, and other meat-eating animals is not safe due to the risk of parasites disease pathogens.

Never, however, add fresh manure directly to the soil. It should always have been aged at least six months, ideally a year, or composted first. Either let it simply age or if you wish to compost it yourself make sure that the temperature of the compost reaches at least 66 degrees Celsius (150 degrees F) to get rid of pathogens like E. coli that are potentially lethal to humans. An alternative, obviously, is, like most people do it, to buy it already composted at the garden center.

Organic matter, such as manure is, is important to create and provide a good soil structure and a nutrient rich soil. Using the same soil year in year out for, and this is the worst thing that modern agriculture does, and only applying chemicals leaches the soil of nutrients and destroys the structure.

Chemical fertilizers do not equate manure, even though the components may be right, by way of nitrates, etc. They are but plant food and not soil food. Feeding the plants, however, only goes thus far and no farther.

There was a reason why our ancestors worked the way they did. They found that it works and it is Nature's way.

© 2013