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Farmers and gardeners have quite a few choices when it comes to manures and fertilizers.

In this lesson, learn the difference between the two, what types are available, and what each is used for.

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Manures vs. Fertilizers

Farmers and gardeners want their plants to grow. To that end, they use both manures and fertilizers. In this lesson, you’ll learn what some of these are along with the uses of each.First, though, let’s talk about the differences between manures and fertilizers. Both are soil additives that improve the soil quality helping plants to grow.

The main difference between the two is that manure is all natural animal droppings, while fertilizer may be natural but may also have chemicals and other unknown substances added to it. Examples of manure include rabbit, horse, cow, and chicken poop and bat guano. Examples of fertilizers include synthetic chemical blends, minerals, and compost from decaying organic matter.


Now, let’s take a look at manure first, and then we’ll look at different types of fertilizers.Manure is animal poop.

The main benefit of manure is it provides nitrogen. It’s downside is that it smells and it’s unsanitary, so you have to wash your hands any time you work with it. Also, any food plants grown in soil with manure in it must also be thoroughly cleaned.

To use it, you work it thoroughly into the soil.


Now, let’s look at some different types of fertilizer. The first is compost. Compost is decaying organic matter that you can make in your own backyard from kitchen scraps and yard scraps. When you mow your lawn, you can put your grass shreds together in a pile, and it will decompose and turn into compost. You can do the same with your kitchen food scraps.

You put it in a pile outside, and you let nature do its thing, and before you know, you’ll have compost that is rich in nutrients for your plants.To use compost, mix it into the soil. If you use it as mulch, much of the nitrogen will evaporate into the air. The downside to using compost is that the nutrients released depend on the quality of the organic matter you used to make your compost. If your organic matter isn’t nutrient dense to begin with, then your compost won’t have many nutrients either.

Also, when compared to synthetic fertilizers, compost is not as concentrated nutrient-wise, so you’ll get fewer nutrients per pound.

Organic Fertilizers

Another natural form of fertilizer is human urine. That’s right, human pee. Because it contains uric acid, adding urine to a compost pile will actually help it compost faster.

And adding urine to soil to make urinated soil in the fall will prepare it for your crops in spring. Why is urine so good? Because it contains a lot of nitrogen, and it’s organic. It has an N-P-K (or nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) ratio of 10:1:4, so it’s perfect for nitrogen-loving plants such as tomatoes and cucumbers.Urine is very potent, however, so you’ll have to dilute it before you can use it on your plants. If used without diluting it, then you run the risk of killing your plants.

Think of the little yellow patches on lawns where dogs have peed. To use it, dilute one part urine to 20 parts water and sprinkle it on the soil around the plants. It is a form of human waste, so do be careful that you don’t wet the plants. And as another precaution, make sure you apply the diluted urine at least a month before you harvest any fruits.Another organic fertilizer is that of castor meal. Castor meal is made up of the husks and meal leftovers from the making of castor oil.

Like human urine, castor meal can only be used in small amounts up to 4.5 percent of total volume; otherwise, it can lead to plant death like urine. Also, like urine, it has high amounts of nitrogen for your plants.Another organic fertilizer similar to castor meal is that of groundnut cake or peanut cake, the leftovers from the production of oil from the peanut.

To use groundnut cake, you dilute it in water before using. Just like the other organic fertilizers discussed so far, it has a high nitrogen content. One negative to using groundnut cake is that ants are attracted to it as a food source.

Synthetic Fertilizers

While organic fertilizers are all natural, synthetic fertilizers are fertilizers made from chemicals.

Ammonium sulfate, for example, provides 21% nitrogen in ammonium form and contains 24% sulfur. It can be applied on the surface or mixed into the soil. Ammonium chloride is 25% nitrogen in ammonium form and provides some chlorine.

Potassium sulfate provides 50% potassium. Sodium nitrate is another chemical that also provides nitrogen to the soil as it contains 16% nitrogen.Another synthetic fertilizer is that of superphosphate. It contains 20% phosphorus.

Many commercial fertilizers are made using a combination of the various synthetic fertilizers. A synthetic fertilizer is considered complete when it contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You can purchase fertilizer in different concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Which one you choose all depends on what nutrients your plants need and which nutrients your soil doesn’t have.

Lesson Summary

Manures and fertilizers are soil additives that improve the soil quality, helping plants to grow. The main difference between the two is that manure is all-natural animal droppings while fertilizer may be natural but may also have chemicals and other unknown substances added to it. Synthetic fertilizers are usually combinations of chemicals that each provide a certain nutrient.

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