The Idiot Gardener

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Sowing seeds in manure: what would Titchmarsh say?

You can’t sow seeds in manure. The experts say you can’t, so you can’t. Okay? Look, the likes of Titchmarsh, Fowler and Don didn’t just repeat what they’d heard, did they? They’re experts, so they’ve got to know what they’re talking about. Plus, go to any gardening forum, ask the question, and some Johnny Big Rake will quickly tell you – in no uncertain terms – that seeds don’t work in manure. Except potatoes.

One comment I read, from a rather condescending Johnny Flacid Hoe, told the asker (see, I’m not the only one who wondered about it) that it was akin to giving a baby Steak Diane. Now, when I was a baby I used to eat raw black pudding. Often the Mother would be confronted by an irate shop assistant, brandishing a black pudding sans one baby’s mouth sized bite. Steak Diane wasn’t common on the backstreets of Tottenham, but I’m pretty sure I would have had a go at the bastard if it was. While other babies sucked down mashed apple, I would have crawled over broken glass just to lick a pig.

So, why should I want to sow seeds in manure, anyway? Well, having decided that the Field would go no-dig this year, I acquired a large amount of compost. However, it turned out to be manure. This has led to a total rethink, with parsnips and carrots heading into the garden, and beans, peas, chard and brassicas heading to the Field.

What with the late start to the year making everything very manic right now, I don’t have time to scrap the no-dig approach and start digging. Therefore, anything that won’t start off in modules will have to be sown direct into manure.

They all said no. The experts said no. The self-proclaimed master gardeners said no. The self-proclaimed Johnny Limp Forks all said no. The lady with the matching wellington boots and gardening gloves who calls me Roger said no. They all said no. What could I do? I thought, ‘fuck it’, and did a trial!

As the picture shows, everything planted did germinate and has thus far grown in manure. There are a line of Autumn King carrots. They’ve started off very well. There are some Milan Purple Top turnips. They love the manure. There are French Breakfast radishes. They can’t get enough of it. Cardoons? Don’t mind if I do! Green Globe artichokes were slow, but they’ve living the manure life now. Finally, I chucked in a few Habanero seeds. I figured they’d certainly not germinate. They’re hard enough in Vermiculite. They germinated and grew. Yes they did, Alan, they did, and you and all your expert army were … what’s the word I’m looking for?


That’s it.

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10 thoughts on “Sowing seeds in manure: what would Titchmarsh say?

  1. Annie's Granny

    Pooh (or poo). When I built the earlier raised bed garden, I hauled in two truck loads of manure and dumped it into the boxes with nothing additional. I had one of my best gardens that year! The veggies grew great, and they weren’t bothered by insects or wireworms like usually happens. The next year I used “leaf and twig” compost and couldn’t get anything to grow well in it. This year I used uncomposted chopped leaves and I’m having a horrid start to my garden. Give me good old poop any day.

  2. Is

    Ah, you’re a man after my heart Id. The head gardener at Tresco once said read every book you can then chuck them away and just go for it. I still think it all depends on how fresh your dung is though.

  3. Jane

    Yay! A lady-like ‘Up Yours’ to all those who say “You can’t”…. I’m all for doing it ‘my way’ ….as my kids would say…’Go You!’

  4. Tom Gowans

    I have never read any gardening books, they’re generally as soporific as watching plants grow. I don’t watch gardening programmes because they’re boring as well. In fact, the only thing I read that has anything to do with gardening is this blog, ‘cos it’s not boring and in between references to neices etc. I occasionally learn something.

    This time, for example, I learnt that I should not have planted all my seeds in poo. I wish I had known that before I put my back out shovelling tonnes of goat shit onto the back of my truck and then shovelling it all off again when I got back home. Cleary though, I was not the only one ignorant as all the seeds have broken Titchmarsh’s Law and germinated. Not only have they germinated, they have flourished.

    God still hates me, though. Now that my garden is green, he has turned off the rainy season.

  5. Sarah

    Huzzah! I planted my carrots in manure last year co I had nowhere else to put them and had already manured the beds. They were absolutely fine. Didn’t split nor nuffink. And being s cheapskate I also used the manure to sow a lot of seedlings too. They grew well enough (well, apart from the chillies but I think that was more to do with it being as cold as a witch’s boosie) but unfortch so did all the teeny little weedy seeds in them. The manure heap is now totally riddled with nettles but now they are big and stringy I figure they will be easier to extricate. But it’s too good to not use. Have already planted some more carrots AND parsnips in it! Sans nettles. By the way, do globe artichoke seedlings look EXACTLY the same as cucumber seedlings? And how was the ox cheek??

  6. Jon 'Jim'll' Knight (@GreenJimll)

    There might be a difference between “well rotted manure” and “fresh manure”. The latter is what is likely to “burn” the seedlings, whereas well composted and rotted manure will have cooled down and, if the sort that comes with built in straw, will have its C-N mix a bit more balanced.

    Of course the alternative is that you could just be lucky! Either way whatever works for you to get veg growing is the important thing.

  7. walk2write

    Experts aside (which is where they belong), maybe the objection to the poop has to do with health concerns–all of that lovely flora and fauna that live in it when it’s fresh. I don’t see a problem with starting seeds in it. Once they’re seedlings, the poop has lost most of its nitrogen and pathogen pop (given enough sunlight), and they should be good to grow.

  8. stone

    I’m not sure those “experts” garden.
    I’ve heard that sacred cows make the best hamburger…

    And for all the claims that poop burns the plants… It simply isn’t true.
    Poultry poop burns…

    Horse poop may actually do the opposite of burning… due to the wood shavings (sawdust) added to absorb the liquid, and the odor.

    I spread poop over the beds and then plant. Have done so for 20+ years.

    Glad to hear that you are testing the claims of those supposed experts instead of blindly following advice offered by people who have never bothered to verify it.


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