by James Alexander-Sinclair

...if you want the satisfaction (and smell) of a bit of real muck, then here are some of your options...

Pile of steaming manureI have just ordered a whopping great pile of manure. A couple of weeks ago we finished cutting everything back and hunting down any perennial weeds that were hiding beneath the plants in readiness for mulching: had it not snowed we would have already completed the operation.

Under the mulch I like to scatter something with a bit more ooomph: mulch is very good for the soil but the plants could do with some sort of fertiliser as well. I usually use blood, fish and bone which gives a good balanced feed (it is better to put it under the mulch as I have discovered from experience that it you do not then the dogs eat it with very unfortunate consequences). I have also used pelleted chicken manure and straightforward bonemeal: all of these come in useful plastic buckets and are not nearly as smelly as their names suggest.

However, if you want the satisfaction (and smell) of a bit of real muck then, if you can get hold of it, here are some of your options - aside from the obvious horse and cow manure.

Legend has it that the best grape vines should be planted on top of the buried corpse of a horse (or a sheep if you are short of horses). Fruit trees grow well if a dead chicken is included in the hole. Hamsters, guinea pigs and budgies will also work well.

Native Americans used to place small fish in planting holes and you can get the same effect by burying fish scraps in trenches before planting.

Pigeon manure is among the richest of manures and was particularly popular in Persia where they kept pigeon houses especially to gather the droppings (not, as in Europe, to eat the birds). In dry countries other types of manure are used as fuel.

Pig manure has to be about the smelliest option but provides plenty of humus. It is better in light, sandy soils.

Leather scraps will release nitrogen into the soil very, very slowly.

Spent mushroom compost consists of horse manure and straw and is a very useful soil conditioner. You will also get an unexpected crop of mushrooms for a few weeks after application.

Urine (whether belonging to animals or Bob Flowerdew) is best added to a compost heap.

Rabbit droppings are a bit rich for direct application (and lack much in the way of bulk) but make a really good liquid feed if steeped in a bucket of water.

If you have a dark cave (or are friends with a vampire) then bat droppings are not bad at all. Incidentally bat guano looks very similar to mouse droppings. You can easily tell the difference, though, as bat poo crumbles easily (consisting as it does of digested insect corpses) while the mouse equivalent is squishier.

There are also vegetarian options like seaweed, leaf mould, wood ash, shoddy (wool waste) and pretty well anything that is organic. Just make sure that whatever you use is well rotted.

Discuss this blog post

Talkback: Manure
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Gardeners' World Web User 17/02/2009 at 19:34

I find that all of the smelling manures should be not be allowed in towns as all the street should not need they cleaned washing that has been put out smelling because these manures. Also they bring flies around the area and the smell last for day & weeks. they are soils that are made by local councils that are made from garden cuttings and waste that do same for your plants and do not smell the street out. So think of others and not just your self and buy soils that do not smell other out of they gardens in your towns. They other places which have soils that are clean of big smells and are normaly better for your plants then just manures. So think.

Gardeners' World Web User 17/02/2009 at 20:47

i think u should not be so snoby there is nuffin rong with a bit of manure its gr8 for the garden and dont smell for long if ur a true gardener then u wounldnt mind then smell!! so y dont u think!!

Gardeners' World Web User 18/02/2009 at 10:38

I think Alan should read his posts before posting them, it may be easier for others to unerstand, if he had checked the spelling and grammer first!

Gardeners' World Web User 18/02/2009 at 21:43

I think it was eminent physician George Cheyne (1671-1742) who said something along the lines that the Creator had deliberately made horse dung smell so sweet, because he knew that mankind would oft be in its presence.

Gardeners' World Web User 19/02/2009 at 19:14

I agree with Jim, but I also think that he should check his grammar and spelling before posting. That first comma should be a semi-colon or even a full stop – in which case, the second comma is redundant. 'Grammer' is mis-spelt and the exclamation mark surely superfluous. Comments on my own syntax,spelling and punctuation will be welcomed in the spirit in which they are (or, indeed, were) intended.

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