Mountain Gardening

I can’t think of any other thing I can put in my garden that’s quite as beneficial as a wheelbarrow full of manure.

This brown stuff provides multiple goodness. Manure improves the tilth of the soil, contains nutrients that are released throughout the growing season and stimulates microbial life. When manure is mixed into the ground, beetles and earthworms seem to get right to work, which keeps the soil loose and aerated.

I use a lot of manure in my garden. Luckily, Wyoming has plenty of cattle and horses, so I can usually find a rancher or cowboy who is willing to let me bag some up to take home.

FYI: Do not use super fresh manure. It should have been aged for a few months.

Poultry, goat and llama are other manures that you can use as soil builders.

Some folks swear by rabbit pellets. If you know someone who raises bunnies perhaps they might give you some droppings.

Readers might laugh at this, but do not use human poop in a vegetable garden. I actually once knew someone who was considering doing just that. I never asked them if they did, because I didn’t really want to know. People’s excreta can possibly pass on harmful pathogens to your soil, and it’s awfully gross, isn’t it? However, it is the societal stigma that really keeps us from using it.

Do not use dog turds and cat droppings either for some of the same reasons.

I have on occasion purchased bags of composted manure. But recently I have had trouble finding any for sale that is isn’t a mix of manure and a whole lot of ground bark.

So I’m always glad to find a local source of manure to scoop up.

I have become a bit zealous about finding manure for my gardens. So much so that my hubby, Mike, had to restrain me from bagging up and lugging home some well-aged horse manure I spied in a corral next to a campground we were set up in last summer. I didn’t feel I was being “unreasonable” (his words) at all.

I have often collected sacks of moose pellets in my yard and scattered them in the garden. And Canada goose droppings on sandbars on fishing trips.

Consider making a vat of manure tea. This concoction is a mild tonic for your plantings and is made by steeping manure in water.

To brew manure tea: Shovel a big scoop of manure into an old cotton pillowcase or burlap bag and tie it shut with a long cord or rope. Suspend this over a 5-gallon bucket.

Let the manure soak for at least a week (jerk the bag up and down once in while) and wait for the water to turn a dark, murky brown. When it is ready the resulting liquid should be rich in nutrients and can easily be diluted and applied to garden plants. With some free manure and a bit of brewing time you can have a good source of organic fertilizer.

Gardening guru Marilyn Quinn shares her green thumb knowledge regularly. You can contact her at columnists@jhnewsandguide.com.

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