While many gardeners and growers spend lots of money on fertilizers and composts, others do have that cash to spend and get creative. Plus, it can be rewarding to come up with do-it-yourself solutions, particularly ones that are free and good for the environment.
They build compost piles at home with veggie scraps, garden waste, and household organic matter. They use free mulches, collect leaves and grass clippings from neighbors, and maybe visit local stables or farmers to muck horse stalls or collect old animal bedding. They grow green-manure plants to cut and feed to the soil.
Another option would be to attract wild animals to the garden to fertilize it. We often think of cow manure, horse manure, chicken manure, and other domesticated animal manure as good in the garden, but we discount the power of wild animal manure (possibly because there’s no money to be made). Birds, bats, worms, and so on have a lot of fertility to give.
Organic gardeners know the value of worms. They are great for aerating the soil, yes, but worm castings are the elite brand of animal manure. Some people value worm castings and worm juice (from worm castings) so much that they build elaborate “worm farms” to collect it.
However, it’s also possible to just naturally attract worms to an area by using in-situ worm farms. These are buckets (or other containers) with holes drilled in them and a lid above the ground. Put those kitchen scraps and organic waste in this container, and the worms will climb in and eat them. They leave castings both in the bucket and in the soil around it. Fertility!
Chicken manure is crazy nitrogen-rich, and so is wild bird manure. Of course, with wild birds—thankfully—we aren’t likely to get the unhealthy concentration of manure that chicken houses create. However, we can get these birds to drop manure—some—where we wish.
The name of the game is perches. Birds perch and poo, so we should think carefully about where we set up perches and gardens. Get the birds to sit on fence posts, trellises, and so on so that they are fertilizing the plants beneath them.
Bat droppings are renowned for their potency, so much so that guano is an entire piece of the fertilizer business. Well, when we see them, bats are usually moving impossible quickly, or they are sleeping upside down, nearly comatose. Comatose, yes, but still capable of delivering the goods.
Bat houses are fun to make, and they are great for getting bats to hang around for pest control. As well, a little collection dish of some sort can be put under the bat house to either distribute the guano or to have fertilized garden beds just beneath the bat house.
Instant garden beds, basically piling up organic material in which little planting areas are created, are as great as they are because they are magnets for worms, insects, and microorganisms.
These tiny animals still eat, and they still defecate, making these beds incredibly fertile. This is a great way to grow nutrient-hungry, bulky plants like squash, cucumbers, greens, and tomatoes.
For those who are way ahead of the game, it’s also possible to plant and put out fodder to attract animals so that they come to the garden bed, eat, and drop manure. This will be before it becomes a garden or perhaps in between crop plantings.
There are lots of plants that animals are attracted to for food. Corn for browsers and different seed plants—sunflowers, flax, etc.—that birds love will attract them to a future garden space so that they drop manure while everything is easy-going.
Later, these animals will be fenced out or scared away from the garden.
Rather than relying on manure from domesticated animals, we could be helping out the wildlife so that they help us, too. There are so many wild animals that can do good for the garden, so we should be working with them rather than against them.
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