How to Make Homemade Fertilizer Without a Cow

Learn how to make homemade fertilizer with just decaying organic material, a plastic bag, and the sun.


| July/August 1978



Homemade Cow Manure

Make your own very convincing cow manure by collecting shredded organic material in a plastic bag and "baking" in the hot sun.

PHOTO: ROY DYCUS

Early in the spring of 1977 — while experimenting with various ways to generate methane gas from decaying organic matter — I made an interesting discovery: it's possible (and outrageously easy) to make homemade fertilizer that resembles cow manure. . . without a cow.

Why Make Homemade Cow Manure?

Now I'm quite aware that this wonderful invention of mine will probably rank somewhere down around hoof-and-mouth disease and warble flies with the beef and dairy farmers out there in MOTHER EARTH NEW's vast readership. (Most of the cattle raisers I know spend more time thinking about how to get rid of cow manure than they do dreaming up ways to create it artificially.)

Then again, for every one beef or dairy farmer of my acquaintance I can probably name 15 or 20 urban or suburban gardeners. Each of whom (unless they've been brainwashed by slick salesmen into paying even higher prices for chemical plant foods) regularly shells out several dollars per bag for dried and ground cow flops, which, after all, are only about the best natural fertilizer that anyone can spread on a vegetable patch. (Get the picture? Cow manure — either real or ersatz — is a valuable commodity, and the price — like all prices — is going up every day.) These urban or surburban gardeners will be happy to learn how to make homemade fertilizer that resembles cow manure, without a cow.

Make Homemade Fertilizer for Less!

The price, that is, continues to escalate if you're still forced to buy your natural fertilizer "straight from the cow"; a situation that I intend to rectify right now. Because, as I've learned, it's easier and far less expensive to recycle leaves, grass, and other organic material into a cow-manure-like plant food right in your own back yard by my method than it is to keep a real cow around to handle the same job for you.

How to Make Homemade Cow Manure

I stumbled onto my "secret," as I've mentioned, during a series of methane gas experiments. As you may know, this fuel (a close relative of natural gas) is produced when organic waste material of any kind — plant, animal, or human — is put into a sealed, airless (anaerobic) container — usually steel or concrete — and allowed to decompose. Although this process is understood reasonably well, there is still some controversy (at least among its grassroots practitioners) about just what organic waste materials — mixed together in just what proportions — will produce the optimum amounts of methane.

Which explains why the spring of 1977 found me dumping various combinations of torn-up weeds, grass clippings, shredded leaves, comfrey cuttings, chopped kudzu vines, artichoke and other vegetable clippings, etc., into a selection of large plastic garbage bags which I then tied shut and left lying out in the hot sun to "cook."

kathy connolly trahan
8/23/2013 9:29:23 AM

What about exposure to BPAs? Any input would be greatly appreciated:)


cynthia b
3/18/2011 7:29:45 PM

I Loved this article! I am in the process of starting a HUGE batch of Cowless Manure (over 200 bags). Thank you!


magicdave
10/5/2009 10:25:51 AM

One thing to consider is that plastic bags are made from petroleum. I think it would be wiser to use 55 gallon steel drums with removable lids. A small hole could be punched into the lid to allow the methane to escape. I am sure that coating the inside with a non toxic paint would increase the life of the drum or you could allow it to rust adding iron oxide to your brew and not use a petroleum based product to make the fake manure. Other than the use of the plastic bags it sounds like a great idea.


marilea
9/30/2009 4:33:03 PM

Although we make "compost" to spread on our fields, this will be a great way to make fertilizer for our flower beds near the house. Thank you for sharing. M






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