The 68th UN General Assembly declared 2015 the International Year of Soils. In this first series of blogs looking at the value of soil - We asked Carson Arthur who is an outdoor design and lifestyle expert and co-host of HGTV’s Critical Listing to explain how to go organic in the garden....
Organic growth is the way to go - Carson Arthur
As this trend of growing heirloom vegetables continues, there seems to be a transition away from synthetic fertilizers to feed them. This isn’t surprising as ‘GMO-messaging’ and benefits of organic food information becomes mainstream. As a result, health conscious homeowners like myself are returning to using manure as a soil conditioner.
But before you run out to your neighbour’s farm and load up this spring, you have to follow a few simple guidelines. Raw manure releases large amounts of nitrogen, which can burn your plants. It needs to be composted before it is garden safe. Manure is full of natural bacteria such as E. coli or other pathogens and is often sterilized before it is sold to consumers. This sterilization also helps remove the weed seeds that are naturally passed through the animal and can end up straight in your garden.
I was invited recently to an alpaca farm to discuss the benefits of using alpaca manure in my gardens. Alpaca farms are popping up all over Canada and the U.S. as they become big business. Chetwyn Farms www.shedchetwynfarms.com is a perfect example of how a city-based couple have moved to a rural area and started raising alpacas. Alpaca manure definitely has some advantages over the other options. Alpacas are ruminant (cud-chewers) with three stomachs. Their process of digestion reduces the organic matter and allows the manure to go into the garden with less composting.
It is also odour-free, which is a plus for the gardener, but it still contains natural pathogens so make sure you are not spreading around your vegetables within 120 days of harvesting.
Other popular manure options for your veggies
Cows have multiple stomachs, which means that they are better at digesting their food and breaking down the organic matter and the weed seeds. While considered lower in nutritional value for your plants, cow manure is excellent as an all-purpose amendment for your existing soil.
Chicken manure is definitely the best for your leafy greens as it contains the highest amounts of nitrogen. This also means you need to be extra careful to ensure it is well composted or it can definitely do damage to your tender plants.
Horse manure is another good all-purpose soil conditioner, which is relatively low in nutrients. The big issue with the horse digestive system is that they only process about a quarter of the weeds seeds. The rest go straight into the garden and start to grow
There are lots of options out there that are natural and safe for you to use. Just make sure you do the research before you use them. When in doubt, compost well and wear rubber gloves to ensure your own safety and the safety of your plants.
For more information on Carson visit www.carsonarthur.com