AMENDING GARDEN SOIL/MULCHING
+ HOW TO MAKE COMPOST & TEA!
Published: June 13, 2020
WITH TIMOTHY HAY & GOATS- THE ANIMAL THAT POOPS GARDEN GOLD!
“THERE IS POWER IN POOP!” Raise your hand if have you ever heard that before? NO? Now ya have! And I totally swear by it! Poop is a powerful animal byproduct, if used to its fullest potential! Poop can literally produce power, heat and of course the most recognized use; rich fertilizer for crops and gardens! When combined with timothy hay it is a match made by the soil gods!
In this article: We will focus on how to directly add manure/hay to your gardens to amend your soil and mulch in both raised beds and row crops. We will also touch base on how to make compost with it for future seasons and how to fertilize flowers, vegetables and fruit trees with a liquid compost tea! Lets get started!
First I'd like to introduce you to our herd, the photos above are of our four pregnant girls and buck. Starting from top left, Kiva is almost 2 years old, Dolly is a 1 yr and 4 mo., Flora is Kivas mama and she is 5 years, Ruth is the same age as Dolly 1 yr and 4 mo. and Whisky our buck is just over a year old.
THERE IS SERIOUS GARDEN GOLD IN YOUR
SO USE IT, IF YOU GOT IT!
THIS SAME BASIC CONCEPT CAN BE APPLIED TO RABBIT,
CHICKEN, TURKEY AND DUCK MANURE TOO!
-Rabbit & Duck manure can be directly applied just like Goat.
-Chicken & Turkey should to be applied 2 weeks before planting or composted first.
Using manure in your gardens can not only increase the yield of your crops by supplying readily available easy to absorb food (aka fertilizer) but it also increases the health of your soil by slowly amending your soil and feeding your microbes and healthy bacteria as it breaks down over time. So basically, WAYYY less work for us not having to fertilize weekly and more time on other projects that need our attention! Win Win!
A FEW QUICK HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MAJOR BENEFITS OF GOAT MANURE:
Goat manure is dry & pelleted which means it is not near as messy to collect compared to larger ruman animals; for example like cows or horses.
Goat manure also has fairly low smell compared to most, so it doesn’t attract the insects like a lot of manures will (If you keep chickens, ducks or turkeys, I know you can relate).
Quite possibly the biggest benefit in my eyes is that goat manure is so easy on your plants it wont burn them up! This means you can literally directly apply the manure to your raised beds, planters or row crops as an amendment/mulch or around the base of your plants as a fertilizer without the fear of hurting your plants! No need to compost ahead of time but composting is also a great way to use it too, we will touch more on that a little later!
Goat manure contains ample amount of nutrients that plants crave for excellent growth and production! This is increased even more when they have bedding in stalls. As they urinate over their droppings and bedding, the urine collects in both and thus increases the nitrogen capacity which inevitably increases the fertilizing potency!
Goat manure when combined with Timothy hay from stalls can be used as an excellent mulch!
But it has to be mentioned that Hay should not be confused with Straw, they tend to thought of as the same thing BUT they are very much different.
HAY: Is grass that was harvested while it was still green and has not yet gone to seed. The best and highest quality hay has little to no seeds. Farmers, like myself, use hay to feed their herds. Great for mulching.
STRAW: Is stalk that is left over after a grain has been harvested. Its dry, hollow and has zero nutritional value in it. Straw is great for insulation and farmers will use it for bedding in stalls as it holds heat well but not as good of a marerial to use as mulch.
TIMOTHY HAY STILL GROWING
(IMAGE SOURCED FROM BALCONYGARDENWEB.COM)
STRAW LEFT IN FIELD AFTER HARVESTING
(IMAGE SOURCED FROM NOHAT.CC)
Inevitably hay will still have some seeds and some weed seeds may be mixed in the bunch as well but the higher quality the hay you source, the lower the amount of seeds you will get. Low quality hay can also be sprayed with herbicides, so ALWAYS try to source good hay if you can. We only use STANDLEE Timothy Hay which is pricey but its very high quality and we personally really like to feed our animals the absolute best we can source. Bales of no-brand hay you get from a feed store will not be near the quality as a compressed bale of Standlee hay or similar brands.
(NOT A SPONSOR)
Timothy hay also has its own set of nutritional benefits for your plants and soil as the hay begins to break down, decompose and turn into organic matter. This organic matter is also known as compost and as you know compost provides so many rich nutrients for your plants. Decaying organic matter creates optimal environment for beneficial microbes and fungi to grow and colonize within your soil. The hay itself contains many nutrients and minerals like protein, calcium, & phosphorus which all help amend and feed your soil too!!
Some of the more obvious reasons to mulch would be to:
Help slowly replenish and amend the soil of depleted nutrients from past growing seasons.
2. To raise the soil level in raised beds that have sunk due to watering, gravity, plants etc.
3. To help minimize weeds.
4. And lastly, to help increase the moisture capacity of the soil by trapping moisture in the
hay/manure and by decreasing the sun exposure to the top of the soil, decreasing the
SO, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO AMEND SOIL?:
"To amend soil is to add any material to the soil to improve its physical properties, such as water retention, permeability, water infiltration, drainage, aeration, and soil structure. The goal is to provide a better environment for roots."
(Definition sourced from: https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/choosing-a-soil-amendment/)
UTILIZING MANURE ALL YEAR LONG!
During the months when you may not have a raised bed, planter or row crop that needs mulching or amending, you can compost their manure in bins and create compost that is rich & dry and will be ready to go for next time you need to fertilize your garden! You can even brew that compost overnight into a compost tea and make an even more nutrient dense fertilizer for your plants! Lets go over how to achieve each method I just discussed and how to apply it to your gardens below!
AMEND/MULCH GARDEN BEDS USING TIMOTHY HAY & MANURE COMPOST
First step to amending and mulching your garden beds with Goat Manure is to source said manure. This can be done a few ways: obviously, if you own goats, it’s as simple as going out to their pen and collecting the hay/manure/urine that is on the ground around their feeders and in their stalls. This is something that is so important to me as a goat keeper. We want to be as sustainable as possible as homesteaders and we always try to reuse our waste in all ways that we can. So being able to reuse our goat waste is so important to us as we are focusing so much this year on becoming as Zero Waste as possible! Ill touch more on that down below!
DIRTY GOAT PEN
SCOOP & REMOVE
CLEAN-ER GOAT PEN :)
If you don't own goats or you live in the city, you can try to source manure by searching for local goat farmers or keepers on Craigslist or local Facebook groups to see if anyone has any spare manure they would be willing to sell to you and even a lot of times they are willing to give it away for free to those who are willing to come scoop and haul it off their property.
Use your local resources, almost everyone now a days knows someone who has a goat; whether it be family or friends who own them or maybe kids you know who are involved in FFA or 4H! And if not, like mentioned above, reach out on Facebook, Instagram and Craigslist and see if someone would be willing to let you come help them clean out their stalls or barter in exchange for some manure. Get creative and don’t be afraid to ask, you would be surprised how generous and giving most farmers are, especially if you have a few fresh or preserved garden goodies you can trade or gift to them.
STEP BY STEP:
Amending garden beds with goat manure & timothy hay is easy, quick and efficient. The hay traps in moisture in the soil below, it contains nutrients mentioned above that will break down and feed your plants and balance your soil and the manure will fertilize your plants over time as it breaks down with the hay and becomes rich compost!
Step 1: Clear beds of any pre-existing plants by cutting down at the base of the soil, do not disturb roots, #notill and then remove any weeds present in the soil.
Step 2: Using your hands, level soil in raised beds to as even as possible and remove any pre-existing irrigation hose.
Step 3: Apply goat manure/timothy hay directly to the top of the soil, in an even layer, the thickness of your layer should be determined by how far your beds have sunk down from the previous seasons. Some of our beds had sunk down 6 or more inches, while other sunk only 2-3 inch. The beds we had a larger space we put a thicker layer and obviously a smaller layer on the beds that hadn't sunk as much. Make sure to leave 2-4 inches for top soil to add on-top of your manure/hay mixture.
Step 4: Add any other amendments that you want to amend your soil with now. We also added Kelzyme, which is a 100% organic beneficial micronized calcium amendment. Adding calcium increases your plants ability to uptake nutrients, which helps makes your plants bigger and stronger, increases the health of your fruits (like stopping blossom end rot), and it neutralizes soil acidity. (NOT A SPONSOR)
Step 5: Add 2-4 inches of top soil, however much is needed to reach the top of your raised beds. We used a mix of organic turkey compost and organic potting soil. We did not mix anything like perlite into it because we have so much perlite in the garden soil below the hay that it will eventually work its way to the top of the soil again (and it has in fact already).
Step 6: Water it all in, plant and then water again very good! ALL DONE! Water reguarly & sit back and watch your plants take off!!! Just in the last two months our garden has exploded! This is the first time we've ever amended using this technique but we will be doing it from now on! The results speak for themselves!
Here is a YouTube video I created of the entire process for you to see a visual representation of the steps!
USE GOAT MANURE/TIMOTHY HAY
IN GARDEN POTS
Now lets talk about another great way to utilize manure and that is to slowly fertilize potted plants from the bottom up! Plants like like herbs, veggies, fruits and flowers! In almost every pot that we have something growing in, we have we have lined the bottom 1/4-1/3 space with goat manure/timothy hay!
Take a look at the difference between these two pots of potatoes we planted. The pot on the right contains only compost and potting soil while the pot on the left has the compost, potting soil and manure/timothy hay!
Not too long ago I made a decently in-depth post about this method on my >Instagram< (linked) if you'd like to read it but I will also explain each step below for you as well.
Step 1: Layer Goat manure/timothy hay in bottom of pot.
Step 2: Layer Potting Soil on top of manure.
Step 3: Set your plants on top of the potting soil, fill in around roots with more potting soil until the roots are completely covered. You can also add more timothy hay on top of your potted plants for mulching purposes!
Then just water regularly and your plants will take off without having to be fed near as much! The manure/timothy hay slowly fertilizes from the bottom up and you have to spend near as much time making fertilizer for a bunch of potted plants! Which for us, would take hours!
MULCH ROW CROPS WITH GOAT MANURE/TIMOTHY HAY
Lets talk more in depth on how to & why you should mulch your row crops with goat manure/timothy hay! It should also be noted that goat manure is not necessary in order to use Timothy hay as a mulch and in the garden! It still hold many benefits by itself!
As mentioned briefly above mulching using goat manure/timothy hay is a great way to increase moisture capacity of the soil by trapping moisture in the hay/manure and by decreasing the sun exposure to the top of the soil which decreases the evaporation rate.
Using hay to amend and mulch your row crops serves the same exact purpose as it does for your raised bed garden- It helps feed the soil in the means of the hay breaking down over time and providing nutrients like calcium & phosphorus and by fertilizing the plants in the means of the goat manure and urine breaking down and feeding the plants.
This year we planted our row crops before we had hay available from the goat pen since we had just used it all in our raised beds and so we planted our row crops and then a few weeks later we just applied the hay on-top of the soil around the bases of the plants but in coming seasons we will be adding much more hay and will be using the Ruth Stout method of planting for our row crops.
What is the Ruth Stout method?
Her no-work gardening method is simply to keep a thick mulch of any matter that will slowly decompose on the garden all year round. As it breaks down and enriches the soil, you just add more hay or similar medium. The labor and time-saving aspect of the Ruth Stout system is that you never plow, spade, sow a cover crop, harrow, hoe, cultivate, weed, water or spray your mounds (Definition sourced from www.motherearthnews.com). The added benefit for us is that our hay is soaked in goat manure and urine which makes it even more rich and beneficial for your plants!
Step 1: Add any amendments to the top of rows around bases of plants. We used Kelzyme, which is a 100% organic beneficial micronized calcium amendment and Xtreme Gardening Mykos which is a root enhancement.
Step 2: Add manure soaked hay in generous amounts around the bases of the plants & heavily water in.
IN THE COMING SEASONS: When using timothy hay on row crops, after you finish the plants out at the end of the first season, you will want to work the hay into the soil of your row mounds. Once you've worked it in, you'll want to reapply A LOT more hay on-top of the rows, then you'll just add a generous amount of new hay before each fall season to come.
Going forward, the main reason we are so stoked about this method for our row crops is how easy & care-free it is and the little-to-no maintenance that is required. Being that Kyle and I still work full-time jobs, it will be tough to manage a Farmers Market stand and everything else but with this method we will be able to achieve more with less time and effort involved! No-brainer here!
MAKE COMPOST & TEA FERTILIZER USING GOAT MANURE
Finally, lets discuss how to compost your extra goat manure and how to make compost tea, so that you can utilize manure all year long!
If you have a goat manure and no row crops or garden beds to amend or fertilize at the moment then the best way to save the manure so that you can utilize it later is by composting it in a pile or bin!
To compost it is very easy: you just add the manure and hay if you got it, directly to your preexisting compost bin along with all the other kitchen & garden scraps, yard clippings, eggs etc. that you already add in your composting bin. Mix it all up and in a few months it will have broken down and will be a fantastic super rich fertilizer or garden amendment! You can mix it up with your soil in your raised beds and in your potted plants!
This is our compost bin, it has two compartments so you can do two different cycles at the same time.
COMPOST TEA FERTILIZER:
Making tea is pretty simple, you will just need a few supplies that are fairly inexpensive, I linked the supplies for you below!
Step 1: Set up your clean bucket or tub with compost tea aerator inside.
Step 2: Cut one leg off the panty hose and fill it with a generous scoop of your goat manure compost, a scoop of Bone Meal, a scoop of Kelzyme, a scoop of Great White and a scoop of worm castings and tie the top of the panty hose tight and then tie it again.
Step 3: Fasten tied up panty hose to the top of bucket in someway and run water over top the panty hose until bucket is about 75% full, you want to leave a good amount of space because teas tend to bubble up like crazy!
Step 4: Plug in aerator and let your tea bubble and brew for 24 hours!
Step 5: After 24 hours, remove the panty hose and aerator and if there is anything left inside the panty hose, dispose of the ingredients directly into the tea.
Step 6: Feed tea immediately, directly to the base of each plant in your garden. Generally we do about a quart per plant.
What I love most about compost tea is that once you get the compost established, its always on hand, no trip to the store or ordering online necessary!
Literally guys, goats are always pooping. So convincing a family member, friend, 4H kid or even some random goat farmer off craigs-list to let you scoop some poop for your garden, wont be tough at all and actually most people would probably be pretty thankful for the free labor! Give it a try, all they can say is no and it doesn't hurt to ask! Free fertilizer as nutrient dense as goat pellet is a HUGE blessing and if you don't have a truck to haul the manure, you could even try to barter some of your garden goodies for a regular delivery of some goat poop garden gold to your garden!
Feed weekly and watch your plants THRIVE!!
CLOSING THE LOOP: ZERO WASTE
This topic is super important to us, as Kyle and I are trying to work our way to as close to a zero waste lifestyle as we possibly can. One of the main reasons why I love utilizing the littered hay from our goat pen is not just because it's soaked in goat manure and urine- although, you see the benefits- it is also because it allows us to close the loop on our animal waste too.
As homesteaders we have a unique opportunity to reuse our animals waste to help save money on fertilizer & amend our soils without having to use or buy commercial fertilizers/amendments. Composting and weekly teas are also another way to help utilize the manure so that none of it goes to the land fill or to waste.
Our responsibility to the planet is to treat her as good as we possibly can and that includes minimizing the waste we put back out into the world! By using the manure as a garden fertilizer it helps reduce, reuse and recycle our animal waste, which benefits our planet in many ways. Including reducing carbon emissions produced by commercial fertilizer factories and by conserving space in our landfills, which minimizes the need to build more landfills- that take up valuable space and are a major contributor to air and water pollution.
Image Sourced from phys.org
GOT MANURE?? USE IT!!
Now you all know our garden secret! Well, I guess I wouldn't call it that as so many other gardeners and farmers have been using these methods for centuries, but these methods are definitely not talked about as much as they should be!
The combination of the goat manure + timothy hay, the kelyme and the organic turkey compost/potting soil mix has made our crops insanely productive and they have grown faster than any year prior! When I first researched and found all the benefits of goat manure and timothy hay by themselves in the garden, I knew when used together they were going to be a really good match but i didn't know just how good!! Kyle and I are very pleased with the results to date and will be amending every single year to come this way!
We have never seen such insane growth, production and immediate success after amending our soil, like we have this season!
I know so many urban farmers, homesteaders, and farmers who own goats, chickens, rabbits, ducks and turkeys, all of which have wonderful manure for fertilizing purposes and should be utilized in the garden! If not, I hate to say it, but its undoubtedly a huge opportunity missed! And now that you've learned how to amend your soil, fertilize your potted plants & row crops, and compost and make tea all out of manure... now you see why I swear by THE POWER OF POOP!
I hope this inspires you to use your own manure or to source it from a farmer or homesteader you know, your garden will thank you with healthy plants that supply endless food! We have already canned 14 quarts of zucchini pickles, have given so many pounds of food away and have started our first Cropboxes with 4 weekly customers AND we are only in the middle of June! That's mind-blowing to us! I'll say it again, this year is already the most prolific year we have had to date!
Here are some of our recent harvest pictures!
Please leave us any comments or feed back below, we would love to hear from you!
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