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manure bucket

While you won't find this recipe on the Food Channel, it's been a staple of European gardeners for centuries. To brew that nutrient-rich elixir called "Manure Tea" or "Russian Tea" or "Poop Soup" relied on by millions, all you need is a non-leaky garbage can, water, a stir stick and, you guessed it, fresh manure.

Horse manure is far and away everyone's favorite, but you can settle for bagged sheep or poultry manure...but do take a few empty garbage bags to a neighborhood horse stall and treat your self to "the real thing" for best results. Fill the garbage can three-fourths full with water and let it age 1-2 days so the chlorine can outgas, then add 1/5 garbage can full of FRESH horse poop, and let it "brew" for two weeks with the lid off. Leave the lid off for good air flow but keep a window screen over the top so mosquitos can't breed in it. Stirring daily with an old broom handle will mix the sunken "goodies" with the foamy top. At the end of two weeks, "it's time for tea".

Just use an old mop bucket to bail out the barnyard scented elixir onto your hungriest plants like corn, hibiscus, okra, pole beans, bananas, muscadine grapes, squash, sugar cane, Bird of Paradise and all manner of roses. Then water it in deeply. They will lap up the combination of dissolved plant nutrients and beneficial bacteria, and you may soon be convinced you can see them growing.

For young seedlings of veggies and flowers just feed them a dilute mix of one half "poop soup" and water, then water that in too. This weakened strength insures you won't "burn" those teensy young stems and roots. And use this dilute formula for a real pick-me-up for all your potted patio and indoor plants...don't worry...that musty barnyard fragrance many folks actually like will pass in a few hours.

When the tea is all drawn off, just spread the dregs at the bottom around your gardens as part of your ongoing mulching habit. Or toss it atop your compost heap. Hey, many of us save our tea bags and coffee grounds for the garden, why not this too?

manure goblet

As with all recipes there are variations, and people think of new ones all the time. "Rose freaks" like to toss in five pounds of alfalfa pellets from the feed store. Passionate veggie gardeners will add a few pounds of dried kelp meal from the feed store, but you can use sea weed and dead fish washed up on the beach. Why the sea products? They contain valuable trace minerals all plants need for optimum health. Tossing in a two cups each of Epsom salts and DynaMate from a feed store will add the sulfur and magnesium and potassium that sandy soil often screams out for. If soil tests show you have the highly acid soil, toss in a couple cups of dolomitic limestone to "sweeten" the soil.

Soil tests show your seaside or desert caliche soil too alkaline? Toss in a bushel basket of FRESH green grass clippings then brew with the garbage can lid on....with no air available your tea will soon be being brewed by anaerobic bacteria who will produce so many natural acids that the resulting tea dissolves egg shells and chicken bones. This version smells horrid but is a remarkably fast, cheap and natural way to acidify alkaline soils that also supplies a whole range of dissolved nutrients. (Warning: when I invented this brew in Denver in 1988 I nicknamed it "Puke Juice" due to the effect of its smell during application on the human gag reflex...thankfully it quickly dissipates!).

Julia Child was a gardener I hear, so I bet she'd even give these recipes a try...ready, set, brew!

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