How I Saved $17,640, Got a Workout & Kept 84 Plastic Bags Out of the Landfill by Shoveling Manure
I’m planning for gorgeous abundance in my garden, and that means it’s time to fertilize. We have over 1,200 square feet of outside garden, never mind the 1,500 square foot greenhouse. That’s a lot of you-know-what.
Last year we tried a limited amount of alpaca manure, and were pleased with the results. So this year we decided to use composted alpaca dung on every growing thing.
One online retailer sells five pounds of composted alpaca manure for $14. We hauled 84 seventy-five pound bags of the black gold for about two dollars in gas. This enterprise consumed the bulk of two days, required eight trips across the valley, and had jolly well better give me renewed arm definition.
More than a great garden! Here are other great benefits of the project:
Workout: The shoveling, filling, lifting, carrying and spreading of 84 bags of poop gave us a chance to work upper body muscles that our hiking/treadmilling routines do not.
Recycling: We reused a dozen woven fiber sunflower seed and feed bags, not only giving the bags added life, but keeping 84 plastic fertilizer bags from going to the landfill.
Save Water: Alpaca manure is said to have moisture retaining properties, so this year we’ll be able to use less water in our hillside gardens. In addition, we hauled 12 bags full of straw, which I’ll use as mulch: another water saving benefit!
Trading Locally: We live in an area that is home to myriad bustling agricultural concerns. Free droppings –goat, horse, sheep, cow— are offered to those willing to shovel and haul. Indeed, there’s a fellow five miles away who offered aged cow manure, but we opted to ask at a ranch that we can see from our property, and ended up trading recipes, a bundle of fresh garlic chives, eggs from pastured hens, and homegrown, sun dried tomatoes as well as a local honey and a fine homemade granola. We also got to feed the alpacas and learn their names.
Alpacas Are Green: Alpacas require less land to raise, less water and feed and yield a prized natural fiber that requires no dye, thus their carbon footprint is less than other manure producing livestock. From Calpaca, a California based breeders association:
“Some facts about alpacas:
Their feet are padded and do not damage the soil.
They eat less than other livestock.
They drink less than other livestock.
They require less room than other livestock. (You can graze 5 to 10 alpacas per acre depending on where you live)
They nibble gently at native grasses, and do no harm.
They produce a sustainable luxury product: fiber!
They even produce a useful by-product! Alpacas produce pellet-sized manure that can be immediately used as fertilizer.”
Read more about sustainable alpacas here.
About Alpaca Manure: Alpacas have three stomachs, which makes them a ruminator, a fact that means few -if any- weed seeds will survive their digestion system and grow where you didn’t exactly plant them. I think that makes it a simple choice.
Alpaca manure is higher in nitrogen than other manures. Local Harvest.org, calls it the secret to their healthy, prolific garden. While other sites suggest spreading the manure without care, Local Harvest cautions one to use the nutrient-rich poop sparingly.
Get more information on how to use alpaca manure as a fertilizer here.
Alpaca manure has good moisture retention properties, thus is a good choice for our hillside garden or any spot where moisture retention needs improvement.