Homemade Manure – 07-31-19

The last time I wrote about “homemade manure” (HMM) was nearly 6 years ago. Crazy. At the time I had recently made a mix using wood stove pellets, alfalfa cubes and chopped up zucchinis.

It was a great batch of HMM – and even more memorable when it ended up infested with stable fly larvae (think biting housefly), leading to good times once a lot of the mix had been moved indoors.

[I seem to recall wearing a hoodie and carrying a rolled up newspaper every time I went down to the basement for a while after that. lol]

Anywho

While I may not have written much on the topic in recent years, the homemade manure concept has still remained an important part of my vermicomposting/vermiculture activities, and something I’ve continued to recommend to others.

In case you are new to the term – the basic idea is that you can create your own quality food/habitat mixes – offering similar benefits as real manures – using 3 basic components: 1) “food”, 2) “bedding”, 3) “living material”.

The ideal ratio of each will depend on what you are trying to do, but bedding and/or the “living” component should typically make up at least half the total volume for best results.

As is the case with actual manures, the term “homemade manure” doesn’t refer to ONE thing – there are literally infinite possibilities.


Earlier in the week I thought it would be fun to put some old stove pellets and chick starter feed to good use by creating a new HMM “recipe”.

I started by adding 6 yogurt tubs of the pellets…

…then 2 of the chick starter (so 3:1 ratio for those two components).

Next I staturated the mix with plenty of rain water and mixed well.


The plan was to create more of a “food”-grade mix, so I boosted the nutrition even further with some chopped up comfrey.

Everything was mixed thoroughly and then split between two smaller bins. Moisture levels were still slightly below where I wanted them so I added a sprinkle more of the rainwater as well.

As for “living material” – these small bins had previously been used for growing worms so there was more than enough residual material to at least inoculate the HMM. I definitely would have added more than this had the mix been intended for use as a habitat material, but in this case it should work well.

As my earlier stable fly story should illustrate, one of the KEY things you need to watch out for with these mixes is critter invasion – especially annoying winged pests like gnats, fruit flies and scuttle flies. The greater the food value, the greater potential for hassles.

In fact – as careful as I thought I was being with this new batch (making it quickly and bringing indoors), it looks like flying pests have somehow found the mix already! In an effort to avoid having them overrun the HMM right out of the starting gates, I will be putting each of the small bins in my deep freezer for a few days. Bare minimum, this should at least ensure that they get started with a clean slate.

NOTE: this is really only an issue if you are planning to use the HMM for indoor systems. If the material is being used outdoors the only (minor) negative is that the invaders will be stealing some of the nutritional value that was intended for your worms.


I will likely let the material “brew” for a week or so (including the freezer time) before testing it as a worm food.

Stay tuned!
😎



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Comments

    • angusmacduff
    • July 31, 2019

    I’ve been using the HMM for a few years. I started a new batch on Monday – I gal. hardwood pellets, 1 gal. alfalfa pellets and I pound of chic starter. Mixed it all up and added water – probably three gallons and mixed well. I stirred it up on Monday – it was warm. Stirred on Tuesday and it was hot – you could not plunge your hand into it, you would get burned. Today I’m going to add some shredded cardboard – should have done it at the beginning – but the temp has been in the high nineties – stir it all up again. It takes about a week for it to cool down. I will add some Dolomite and ground egg shell powder.
    I add Black Kow, coffee grounds and worm castings before I use it. I spread some on top of my bins, add the frozen food scraps and cover it over with more HMM.
    When I plant tomatoes I put a big scoop in the hole.
    While this is cooking, it can give out an aroma that might not be appealing to most (WIFE) – do it in the garage,
    After it is done cooking and cool I store it in five gallon buckets in the shed.

    • Bentley
    • July 31, 2019

    Sounds great, Angus! I think the cardboard should help – even if just to loosen it up a bin. Do the flies ever get at it in the garage?

    • angusmacduff
    • May 5, 2020

    A follow up from my last note. Luv the HMM. I took two large cement mixing trays – two foot by three foot and about eight inches deep and cut about three inches off both of them. I then welded them together using Flex Seal to make a tray that is almost six foot long. I separated the worms and castings from three bins – one was a pail with the vents, another was a copy from Green Shorts – they all worked but I thought I would try something different.
    I put all of the worms and bedding into the new long bed at one end – took up about two feet of the bin. I let them sit for about a week and then put down a strip of shredded wet cardboard – abut four inches deep and five inches wide from one side to the other. and put about a 1 gallon of my soggy HMM (probably six months old) on top of the cardboard. I then covered them with a wet beach towel. I put a Styrofoam cover over the top. I feed them about every six days – when the old HMM and cardboard are about gone.
    I’m almost to the end of the tray and the castings at the beginning are beautiful – with no worms mixed in. Close to three feet and a perfect consistency. I’m very pleased and it is easy to care for. At ninety years I don’t need a lot of heavy lifting or extra work – I have a twenty by twenty vegetable that tires me out – but worth it.
    I find that it is pretty wet at the end of the wedge where the worms are – moist would probably be a better word. When I lift up the towel (what’s left of it) it looks like I had put half of a watermelon in it the worms are so thick all of the way across.

    This has gone on and on – I would highly recommend giving it a try. It’s on a bench in my cellar. I’ll be happy to answer any questions, but I think it is pretty clear.

    Angusmacduff – AKA – Frederick (Al) Fyfe, South Weymouth, MA

    • angusmacduff
    • May 5, 2020

    One more thing – when I get to the end, I will remove all of the castings and just start feeding towards the other end — Left to right and then right to left.

    • Bentley
    • May 6, 2020

    Thanks for the update, Angus! I certainly have an even greater appreciation for HMM these days, now that I have somewhat limited access to other materials.

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