The terms "manure" and "fertilizer" are used
somewhat ambiguously and interchangeably. Using the former term in a
broad sense--as meaning any substance containing available plant food
applied to the soil, we may say that manure is of two kinds: organic,
such as stable manure, or decayed vegetable matter; and inorganic, such
as potash salts, phosphatic rock and commercial mixed fertilizers. In a
general way the term "fertilizer" applies to these inorganic manures,
and I shall use it in this sense through the following text.
Between the organic manures, or "natural" manures as they are often
called, and fertilizers there is a very important difference which
should never be lost sight of. In theory, and as a chemical fact too, a
bag of fertilizer may contain twice the available plant food of a ton
of well rotted manure; but out of a hundred practical gardeners ninety-
nine--and probably one more--would prefer the manure. There is a reason
why--two reasons, even if not one of the hundred gardeners could give
them to you. First, natural manures have a decided physical effect upon
most soils (altogether aside from the plant food they contain); and
second, plants seem to have a preference as to the _form_ in which
their food elements are served to them. Fertilizers, on the other hand,
are valuable only for the plant food they contain, and sometimes have a
bad effect upon the physical condition of the soil.
When it comes right down to the practical question of what to put on
your garden patch to grow big crops, nothing has yet been discovered
that is better than the old reliable stand-by--well rotted, thoroughly
fined stable or barnyard manure. Heed those adjectives! We have already
seen that plant food which is not available might as well be, for our
immediate purposes, at the North Pole. The plant food in "green" or
fresh manure is not available, and does not become so until it is
released by the decay of the organic matters therein. Now the time
possible for growing a crop of garden vegetables is limited; in many
instances it is only sixty to ninety days. The plants want their food
ready at once; there is no time to be lost waiting for manure to rot in
the soil. That is a slow process--especially so in clayey or heavy
soils. So on your garden use only manure that is well rotted and broken
up. On the other hand, see that it has not "fire-fanged" or burned out,
as horse manure, if piled by itself and left, is very sure to do. If
you keep any animals of your own, see that the various sorts of manure
--excepting poultry manure, which is so rich that it is a good plan to
keep it for special purposes--are mixed together and kept in a compact,
built-up square heap, not a loose pyramidal pile. Keep it under cover
and where it cannot wash out. If you have a pig or so, your manure will
be greatly improved by the rooting, treading and mixing they will give
it. If not, the pile should be turned from bottom to top and outside in
and rebuilt, treading down firmly in the process, every month or two--
applying water, but not soaking, if it has dried out in the meantime.
Such manure will be worth two or three times as much, for garden
purposes, as that left to burn or remain in frozen lumps. If you have
to buy all your manure, get that which has been properly kept; and if
you are not familiar with the condition in which it should be, get a
disinterested gardener or farmer to select it for you. When possible,
it will pay you to procure manure several months before you want to use
it and work it over as suggested above. In buying manure keep in mind
not what animals made it, but what food was fed--that is the important
thing. For instance, the manure from highly-fed livery horses may be,
weight for weight, worth three to five times that from cattle wintered
over on poor hay, straw and a few roots.
There are other organic manures which it is sometimes possible for one
to procure, such as refuse brewery hops, fish scraps and sewage, but
they are as a rule out of the reach of, or objectionable for, the
purposes of the home gardener.
There are, however, numerous things constantly going to waste about the
small place, which should be converted into manure. Fallen leaves,
grass clippings, vegetable tops and roots, green weeds, garbage, house
slops, dish water, chip dirt from the wood-pile, shavings--any thing
that will rot away, should go into the compost heap. These should be
saved, under cover if possible, in a compact heap and kept moist (never
soaked) to help decomposition. To start the heap, gather up every
available substance and make it into a pile with a few wheelbarrows
full, or half a cartload, of fresh horse manure, treading the whole
down firmly. Fermentation and decomposition will be quickly started.
The heap should occasionally be forked over and restacked. Light
dressings of lime, mixed in at such times, will aid thorough
Wood ashes form another valuable manure which should be carefully
saved. Beside the plant food contained, they have a most excellent
effect upon the mechanical condition of almost every soil. Ashes should
not be put in the compost heap, because there are special uses for
them, such as dusting on squash or melon vines, or using on the onion
bed, which makes it desirable to keep them separate. Wood ashes may
frequently be bought for fifty cents a barrel, and at this price a few
barrels for the home garden will be a good investment.
Coal ashes contain practically no available plant food, but are well
worth saving to use on stiff soils, for paths, etc.

VARIOUS FERTILIZERS Vegetables that must be heavily irrigated facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail