As I mentioned yesterday about my visit to Schlafly Gardenworks this weekend, we all got to take home bags of aged manure.

This may not sound like a big deal because you can get bagged manure at almost any garden center, or bulk manure from a couple of local sources. I have a few thoughts about that though.


First, I'm of the opinion that you can never add enough organic material to a garden. Compost, mulch, manure, leaves, straw -- it's all vital to the health of the soil, and there's almost never enough of it, at least in all of the garden soils I've ever seen. So whenever I get the opportunity to get free organics, I take it. Although I don't mind paying for bulk compost, mulches, etc., money I save on not having to buy some of this stuff is money I can spend on plants or other garden improvements.

Second, have you tried buying bagged garden products during the winter (if you live in a cold climate)? The garden centers of home improvement stores are deserted at this time of year, and they don't restock until it warms up because "nobody gardens in the winter". Dedicated nurseries typically have low stock on these types of items now too.

Third, not everybody has the need for a truckload (or several) of materials, so bulk is not an option for everybody. This is especially true for urban gardeners -- which many of the visitors to these gatherings are.

So having somebody providing a source of just the right amount of manure is such a resource, especially at this time of year. Thanks Jack and Nolan!

So what did I do with this beautiful stuff?

I had several options, including adding it to the veggie beds, but I decided to take care of some of the bamboos. It's a bit early to start feeding them, but I'd rather they had access to the good stuff when they needed it, rather than having to wait for me to get my act together this spring.

The soil beneath this bamboo was covered by a nice carpet of fallen leaves, which the manure has hidden. I don't like the look of the dark soil here -- probably because I'm used to the light-colored leaf blanket -- I like to throw some leaves over the top in cases like this:

It really helps to "soften" the scene for me, and since I look at this bamboo from the kitchen window every day I want it to look as nice as possible.

A couple of the bags were full not of manure, but of used coffee grounds:

Filters too:

These are an excellent source of nitrogen, so I mixed them into the manure to give some of the plants an extra boost:

I pulled out the used filters and threw them onto the compost pile though. They'd break down eventually if I left them under the bamboo, but I don't want them ruining the look of the grove:

I didn't spread leaves on top of the manure in this case, at least not yet. I may end up adding much more organic material on top of this grove before spring. Plus this is way back in the corner of the yard so I don't see the ground very often -- the dark manure won't bother me.

One note about the number of bags of manure I took: it was more than I felt comfortable taking, as I didn't want to be greedy. I can probably use a few cubic yards of the stuff myself (a dozen or more bags), but wanted to ensure that the other gardeners got all they desired and that Jack had some left for his own garden.

With half of the pile left and everybody done filling their vehicles, Jack said to me "it looks like you still have some room left in your truck, so grab some more bags!" It turns out that he is expecting another load of manure sometime in the next few weeks, so will have as much as he can use. So I kept on bagging.

My garden is thankful, and so am I!


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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (January 7, 2013 at 10:27 AM)  

This looks like great manure! I wouldn't have passed it up either. As you said, soil amendments are always good, and they're even better when they're free.

Steve Lau  – (January 7, 2013 at 11:39 AM)  

I prefer getting the manure that they list on craigslist either for free, or a very low price. Some people will deliver it for a pretty decent price by the truckload.

Looking to land  – (January 7, 2013 at 4:25 PM)  

The bamboos look great, Alan. I second your opinion: never give up opportunities for free organic manure. Many of the Craiglist free manure posts are either too far or need to get a truck (which I don't have), so the Schlafly event is great for me.

scottweberpdx  – (January 7, 2013 at 5:50 PM)  

I agree...I always feel like I'm doing the garden a huge benefit whenever I did in some's really the answer for so many soil conditions.

Lisa  – (January 7, 2013 at 6:13 PM)  

We are lucky enough to have a horse farm down the road. They bring us manure by the truckload for free. Great stuff! Only problem is the dogs love it, too. Have I mentioned they aren't the brightest pair?

Do you all use manure on your vegetables, too? I had someone warn me about residue from medication (from treating the animals for worms, etc) in the manure and that concerned me a bit. The stuff we get is aged at least three years...but I was told the chemical residue remains.

Alan  – (January 8, 2013 at 7:34 AM)  

Lisa: I do use manure on my edibles. Although I'm somewhat concerned about the medication residuals as you mention, I know that chemicals are present in the natural world due to human activity (including human medications), so I'm somewhat resigned to their presence.

Jason  – (January 8, 2013 at 9:58 AM)  

I also use a lot of composted manure every year, and would love to have an off season source like you've got.One thing, though. I would say that you can add too much organic matter in some wildflower or other perennial beds. I have had experience with soil that was too rich for such plants, resulting in excessive and floppy growth.

Alan  – (January 8, 2013 at 10:31 AM)  

Jason: good point! I really only use the stuff on the veggie beds and the bamboos. I'll use it on tropicals (bananas) once it warms up too. My perennials don't get much attention.

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