Sunday, March 11, 2012

How To Get Free or Almost Free Manure

Traditionally, manure is added in the fall so it has the time to break down over the winter. Now of course not all of us get to do this for one reason or another. Or maybe the soil just needs more.

Any hooo.... about the free or super cheap animal poop. Where can you get it?

Alright here are some places to get your hands on some manure ;)

Rabbit and Farm Animal Rescues: Ok ... I'm big on helping and supporting rescues so NEVER just ask for free manure. These people work hard and many rescues are barely surviving. Offer to spend a whole day helping clean cages, offices, ect. in exchange for some manure for your garden. It's better to call ahead and let them know your intentions. Many rescues may need you to go through a type of orientation and/or training to become a volunteer. Every single rescue I have worked with also keeps records so don't freak if they ask for your address and phone number. It's just to keep in touch with all volunteers and just in case something happens to you they know who to call. There may be some who sell their manure but I don't know of any that do (I mainly worked with dog & cat rescues).

Livestock Breeders: Look up local breeders of rabbit, chickens, horses, llamas, ect. You'll have a better chance with small independent/family breeders than a company. Plus you'll more likely get a faster and friendlier response. Offer to shovel it yourself with a small donation. I know of one breeder who only asks for a minimum $10 for as much manure as you want and even encourages taking a truck bed full. A truck bed full of already aged manure for $10? Can't beat that!

Friendly Neighbors: First of all, remember to be friendly and as non creepy as possible. It isn't everyday that a stranger asks for your pet;s poop and it might freak some people out. If you're not on at least 'hello neighbor' biases then ask those you are with first for an introduction. It'll be easier to get a yes if you have one of their friends introduce you first. And as always offer to shovel it yourself. If you don't have any neighbors with livestock ask your family and friends if they know someone with chickens, rabbits, horses, ect. and plenty of extra poop laying around.

Craigslist: Now there are people selling high-priced 'organic' manure on craigslist but there are also just as many begging people to just take it. If you don't see any ads for free manure in your area  then post up your own ad stating that you are willing to shovel up some free manure. Just as a friendly warning please always be careful on craigslist or anytime you are dealing with strangers. Remember to bring a friend with you just to be safe.

Yahoo Groups: Yahoo groups are a great place to ask. Ask a local gardening or livestock enthusiast group that you are willing to clean up manure from their yard.

Social Network: Already on a social platform of some sort? Then post an update letting everyone know you're looking for some manure for your garden. Who knows maybe that girl you haven spoken to since the 7th grade has small mountain of manure with your name on it.

Animal Manure to use in the Garden:
*Do NOT use poop from meat-eating animals.*

Quick Manure Tips: Ok I just want to remind you that 'hot' manure needs to be composted first so it doesn't burn the plants. This is why it's added to the garden in fall so it gives it time to age. Aged manure can be added directly to the soil. 'Cold' manure (rabbit pellets) are considered safe and compost quickly so it won't burn the plants. However, like anything else (and it IS poop after all) many recommend to compost the rabbit manure and let it age.

Warning: Why compost manure? Manure that is considered 'hot' can contain pathogens that can spread disease such as e. coli. The risk is small, but it is still a risk none the less. The soluble nitrogen and ammonia in the fresh manure will also burn the plants and can interfere with seed germination. Plus fresh manure stinks.

Recommended Readings:

Washington State University: Composting Livestock Manure

WSU: A Guide to Composting Horse Manure

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Plant Profile: Hale's Best Jumbo Cantaloupe

Name: Hale's Best Jumbo Cantaloupe

Botanical Name: Cucumis melo

Zone: 3 to 9

When to Plant: 2 to 3 weeks after last frost date

Sun: Full Sun

Sow: direct sow or transplants

Planting Depth: 1/2 inch

Spacing: 4 feet between each plant

Germination: 5 to 10 days

Maturity: 80 days

Height: 15 to 18 inches

Spread: 3 to 6 feet

pH Range: 6.0 to 8.0

Yield: 5 to 7 per vine

Description: This melon has a firm but thin rind (skin) that is slightly ridged. It is mostly flesh with a small seed cavity. The flesh itself is salmon colored that is fine textured. It is very sweet with a nice tasty flavor. The vines are compact and can be trained if needed.

Harvest: Grow to 4 pounds or more. Ready to harvest when the rind (skin) has a sweet smell.

Seed Saving: Allow the melon to fully ripen. Scoop out the seeds and remove any pulp. Rinse the seeds and remove any floating seeds. Turn the water on high in the sink and rinse the seeds in a colander forcefully to remove any thing that may still be on the seeds. Place the seeds on a paper towel and allow them to fully dry. Once completely dry place in a clean glass jar or zip lock bag.

Growing Tips: Take great care if planning on pre-starting since it will not transplant well if roots are disturbed. This plant does exceptionally well with high potassium and nitrogen.

Problems: Cucumber beetle, mildew

Author's Notes: If there was one reason why I love this plant is that it's Drought Tolerant! Not that many fruit and vegetable plants can say that! The first time I grew this plant I didn't take great care of it and didn't add anything to the soil until the vines started spreading; but like the trooper it is, it marched on and produced the tastiest melons I have ever eaten. This one is defiantly worth a try and is very easy to grow. This is a must have for new gardeners.

While often called a cantaloupe it is actually a muskmelon.

If you can resist eating it right away after picking; wait until the next day. Letting it sit on your counter will actually make it a little sweeter. The first time I tried it I was skeptical but it actually seems to be true.


Measurements for above recipe @

Very simple recipe @ 3:48

1 Cantaloupe, 1/2 tsp Curry powder, 1/2 tsp ground Nutmeg, 1/2 tsp Cinnamon, 1/2 tsp Garam or Cholle Masala

References/Recommended Sites: Hale's Best Jumbo

Gardens Alive: Organic Hale's Best Jumbo Melon

Washington State University, Skagit County Extension: Seed Saving (pdf file)

University of Arizona, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences: Saving Melon Seeds

University of Illinois Extension: Muskmelon