The many benefits of sheep manure (Gardening Tips ‘n’ Ideas)

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The many benefits of sheep manure
To be honest, I’m a big fan of sheep manure. It’s a deserved attraction because, as animal manures go, it has countless benefits – one of the major ones being it won’t stink out the garden and be the cause of neighbour angst.  Odour aside, sheep manure is an incredibly versatile animal manure. One of the benefits that I like the most is its ability to be used for more than just a soil ammendment. As it’s so cheap here in Australia, being the 2nd highest producer of sheep in the world (China -1st, NZ – 6th, UK – 7th and US – 11th), I’ve started using it as mulch. Mulch? Are you sure that’s wise? Sure it is. Sheep manure is low in nitrogen – compared to other animal manures – so it won’t burn your plants. Plus, it’s a natural slow-release fertiliser and this is part of the versatility of using it as a mulch. I usually pour it on to about a depth of 50mm (2″) ensuring that it doesn’t touch the plant’s stem. Then I just water it as I would normally reticulate the garden.

I’ve found a local supplier where I can get guaranteed weed-free marbles at a rate of $10 for a 100L bag which is fairly cheap (comparably cow manure costs $8 for 25L and chicken approx $11+ for 25L). The only down-side is that the manure is very dry and takes a few days before it will retain enough moisture to begin breaking down.

Some gardeners will only ever dig it in to their beds arguing that unless you do it will become so hard that it will never break down. This is not the case, and when piled as high as I do you can dig into the manure mulch within a few weeks and see the layer directly above the soil beginning to decompose.

So what are the myriad of benefits for using sheep manure;

*    Natural slow-release fertiliser
*    Can be used as an organic mulch
*    Low-odour
*    Easy to handle
*    Relatively inexpensive
*    Fairly easy to obtain and most providers usually offer door-side delivery
*    Lower in nitrogen than other manures yet still high in Phosphorous and Potassium – great for plant growth
*    Depending on the source can be obtained weed-free
*    Looks great

While I do use other manures in my garden – chicken in the veggie patch, horse and cow as additives for the compost heap – I much prefer sheep manure in my garden beds.


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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