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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Clean Manure is not an oximoron. It Pays to get the right stuff.

The Scoop on Poop

This time of the year always finds us a little stir crazy and we begin to wonder what you’re thinking about in terms of your yards and gardens. We have it figured out for certain, finally, and we want to add a shovelful of our own knowledge to your thoughts or discussions.

Cabin fever does strange things to all of us during a normal year. Anymore who knows what “normal” really is; this year has been particularly strange in that the cold weather comes and goes. Day lilies are inching through; hyacinth has poked up in a place or two. Trees are budding. And, yet, clearly it is February. Snow is on the way. As Robert Frost puts it, “…to watch his woods fill up with snow…” It’s coming. Sit tight.

You may be tired of flipping through the plant/shrub/tree catalogs and are itching to go out and dig a hole then plop something in it. We imagine you sitting, looking out the window and wondering what to tackle. You’ve cleaned and sharpened your gardening tools. The mower is in the shop getting tuned up. Why not plant something?

Well, wait. It’s tempting but hold off. The ground has to be ready. Ready means not only warm but prepared. Prepared can mean, treated to, yes, MANURE. Let us share with you some of the finer points about this delicate topic.

Don’t use fresh manure on your planted areas. It will prove to be too acidic which will alter the balance we have strived to maintain for maximum plant performance and health. If you go out and gather plops of poop, say from your friendly area horses, cows, or sheep, then pile it high and deep in the way-back of your yard. Let it age. We call it decomposing. Put it out back by your compost pile if you have one. Come spring of 2013, or this fall you are lucky enough to get partially decomposed manure from last year, you can spread it around as much as far as it will go.

Having spent substantial time in open forum discussion about manure we defer to greater experts in dealing with it than we can ever claim to be, which is not to say that we don’t find ourselves deep in it occasionally. It is to say we respect the voices of experience and those voices tell us that sheep are the best providers of manure for gardening. Yes, the aforementioned horses and cows are fine and deliver quantities beyond compare, but sheep do it best.

Owners of livestock don’t always consider the needs of neighboring gardens or city folks out looking to pick up a little manure. It’s easier to care for the penned areas if there’s some straw on the ground. Manure may be mixed with sawdust or straw. Again, we face an acid problem but only if it is mixed with sawdust. Look for the critter who’s litter is in straw and you’re good to go. If you find sawdust, add lime.

When the time comes, if you are starting to create a garden spot then spread a layer of manure on top and till it in really well. Once you think you’ve done a complete job go over it one more time. You need to build your muscles for all the spring, summer, fall fun of planting, caring for, and harvesting! If you have existing plant beds to work over then the wisest advice is to use a pitch fork to deliver the manure but then rake it in so as not to disturb the plants and bulbs below.

Finally, as one of us said, ever so tactfully, “What goes in must come out”. You’re bound to find seeds sprinkled in your supply of free manure from Flicka, Bessie, or Baa-Baa. Even if you don’t find the seeds (and are you really going to look for them) you are likely to find the results – weeds growing amidst the tulips and petunias. Perhaps the safest option now is to order up some composted manure from us, a good 40 lb. bag runs you $3.50 (plus tax). We’ll take your call now. Then you can go make certain your snow boots are nearby, your mittens are ready, the chapstick is in supply and the shovel is by the door. The snow is coming and like our discussions and some places where there’s manure, it will be deep.