I've done a little brainstorming about organic gardening, and came to conclusion that your garden stops being organic the moment you add manure in it.

I am not some animal protector enthusiast or anything like that, but the stuff they put into chickens to grow fast and large, antibiotics and some other drugs doesn't seem organic to me. Main problem is that the drugs are secreted into feces. You can't use animal manure and derivatives of animal manure unless the animals eat clean. And those farms are really hard to find.

Is it possible to grow healthy plants without using manure, either directly or indirectly? What are my alternatives?

2 Answers 2


Manure HAS to be DECOMPOSED before used in the garden soil. You are correct about the residues in animal feces. What you do is find friends that you know who don't give their animals growth hormones and constant antibiotics.

Decomposed manure is used for TILTH, not fertilizer. Yes it does impart a bit of nitrogen, some manures more than others. My favorite manure is HUMAN poo that has been thoroughly decomposed so that it is chemically not at all the original product (mixed with sawdust). It is always decomposed and tested 5X because it is under federal control. This mulch is beautiful, smells wonderful and FEEDS YOUR SOIL organisms. Lots of nitrogen as well.

The downside to this particular mulch using human poop is heavy metals. Can't be used for vegetables. Yet there are tap waters, wilderness soils and fresh water that are full of heavy metals higher than this decomposed product. So sadly, I don't use this for my soils in the vegetable garden.

The other cool thing about human poo plus sawdust decomposed COMPLETELY and tested 5X before sold to the public IS; no pesticide residues, no weed seeds and no sticks, rocks, chunks of an errant piece of plastic. This product is hard to find. The company I worked with and used their mulch exclusively (I would not use bark or plastic and I could tell clients why down to the cellular level and if they insisted on bark, plastic, I'd tell them I won't do their job. Go find 'landscraper'). There were many of those clients, tough to sell human poo, grins, but mostly I could show examples of other yards that would blow them away. And my credibility was provable.

Animal feces will be full of weed seeds. Compost you purchase by compost making companies who recycle 'clean green' or lawn debris, yard debris do not have their compost tested. You will never know what is in that compost. Compost is added to topsoils to be sold as well. I have found topsoils and compost that I couldn't grow a weed nor a petunia in. Seriously. Homeowners are worse than corporations for pesticide pollution. That is a fact. They use pesticide for herbicides, herbicides for insects. They don't read labels and the instruction booklet. This is a big deal.

I also found by talking with the owner of Sawdust Supply in Seattle, WA that the poo they DON'T make into GRO-CO, they take out to the middle of the state to pump 15 to 20 feet BELOW the crops. Which, we know will not help those crops at all, should not be used for edible crops anyhoo and guess what? They are pumping it into the water table. This, by the way is what this company does, at this particular treatment plant that DOES allocate most of their poop to be mixed with sawdust and tested 5X before selling it (still cheap). So what the heck are other sewer and water treatment utilities DOING with all our poop? Good question.

Animal feces if completely decomposed is great to improve TILTH. Expect a few weeds. Do make sure you know the owners and their animal husbandry. I would not buy compost unless I am able to get a test of the chemistry. Making one's own compost to make enough for a simple vegetable garden is a pipe dream. I top my beds in the spring and fall with 2" of compost. I buy bales of compost that have the chemistry listed. It isn't always completely decomposed but it is the best I am able to get to do the job. I add a bit more nitrogen to offset the needs of the decomposers. I use my horse manure that I KNOW what it is composed of and has been decomposed for years. I never use manure as FERTILIZER. I consider the amount of fertilizer that manure adds but I never use manure as fertilizer. I do soil tests!

Just topping your beds with decomposed organic matter, manure you easily take care of the weeds and feed your soil organisms. Organisms that are critical for plant health as they work symbiotically with your plants. These micro and macro organisms in the soil aerate and mix organic matter into your soil for you, I never mix this stuff into my soil by myself manually after the first time of double digging and creating raised beds. (no lumber or structural stuff) These organisms do a far better job of mixing.

Fertilizer and pH and tilth are critical things to know if we want to grow plants. Humans don't make self sustaining ecosystems. We are forcing soils to produce food in mass quantities. Not 'natural'. So we humans have to be far more informed to be able to add ANYTHING to soils. You've got great questions btw!!

  • Thanks for explicit answer. I checked your profile (hope you dont mind) and saw you spent a lot of time studying plants. Do you have any authoritative books or other resources you can suggest for inexperienced gardeners? I am a chemist myself so I prefer scientific textbooks down to the molecular level.
    – sanjihan
    Apr 22, 2017 at 11:25
  • 1
    Big smile...here are three, they are for scientists who want to garden! Now, this first book might seem strange at first as it concerns ONE PLANT but the detail is enormous; the author is Jorge Cervantes 'The Cannabis Encyclopedia', the next is authored by Shane Smith 'Green House Grower's Manual' or something like that. Again this is from the point of view how to grow plants in an artificial environment and understand OUR responsibilities. Even our gardens in our yards are artificial. Then Michael Dirr's Vegetable Gardening. Hope this helps!!
    – stormy
    Apr 22, 2017 at 16:24

you can use manure from animals raised as certified organic for certified organic agriculture, but you still have to follow guidelines for timing of application for human pathogens: >= 120 days before harvest for plants that do not come into contact with soil and >= 90 days for plants like corn that do not come into contact with soil.

If you want to use manure from farm animals which are not raised as certified organic, you will have to compost it and meet minimum temperature / time requirements. Some non-organic farms compost their manure and make sure it meets the requirements for organic ag, like this one: https://m.tender-loving-compost.com/. Or you could buy it from a farm that does hot anaerobic digestion and meets temp requirements.

human manure or urine is not allowed in certified organic ag.

If you don't want to use manure, you could look for other organic matter sources that are certified organic and buy some organic fertilizers. Depending on what the fertilizers are, they may be slow to act and probably not better for the environment anyway. Instead of nitrogen fertilzier, you could plant a legume cover crop and kill it before it makes viable seeds. then plant a few weeks later and you won't need N fertilizer.

certified organic doesn't mean "better for the environment" necessarily, just fyi.

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