ECHOcommunity Conversations

Human manure in my garden

Good morning to you all,my name is Faith and I love farming so I have a question (*disgusting of course but I need to know)…about all these abandoned pit toilets *( humanure) if it’s healthy to dig it up and feed crops like maize,songhurm, and of course vegetables :grinning:,herbs and many more…?
Thank you.

After al least a year it should be fine.

Ok,thank you.So this one had been abandoned for at least 10-15 ,so is the manure still effective on plants or maybe it’s already weak and useless?

After that length of time, it’s probably not worth the effort.
Are you familiar with arboroloo?
https://sswm.info/factsheet/arborloo
Plant trees into a filled in shallow latrine hole.
If you can separate urine, you can use it directly as a fertilizer on maize. It contains most of the nutrients that humans excrete.

Thank you,highly appreciated…there’s so much to learn there …

Generally with animal manures one month of time is considered safe. Human should be about the same but everyone errors on the side of safety and this is a subject that no-one likes to touch due to the ramifications which can be life and death. What I would do is give it a month or more and put it in the bottom of a planting hole or better yet in the bottom of a planting hole of a crop that is long in maturing. But in your case it has been many years so use it. I like decomposed organic matter on top of my seeds so that is a top rate use for it for your product which is very old. Human urine is great. I use it continuously. I put my raincoat on when it starts to rain and grab the urine straight and put a little bit at the base of every plant in the garden except those recently transplanted and also am sensitive to small size which gets less. You will see amazing results, particularly with sweet or bell peppers which like regular fertilizer, maize, all cucurbits or pumpkin family and particularly cucumbers, cabbage family and most greens are all heavy feeders and love fertilizer. The rain washes the smell away, dilutes it and spreads it to the full root zone and only got burn once and was very slight when the rain stopped abruptly. A 1/4 teaspoon per plant is good until you get familiar with the process, the size of the plant, the soil type (sandy apply less more often and the rain will wash it out unless it is almost finished raining) and you may be able to do more depending on the plant and whether or not you circle the base of the plant and at what distance you circle the plant with the urine when applying. Green plants or weeds can go in the planting hole or planting trench (direct seeded in a line crops) as fertilizer if you prepare them sufficiently in advance for composting in place (in-situ) or you only add a little no more than a half inch thick so it does not heat up. If you use brown materials add as much as you want if you are using urine because the urine will help it keep balanced and keep both the crop and the microbes happy. If you don’t use the urine or some other high nitrogen fertilizer the brown materials will cause unnecessary competition for the nitrogen in the soil.

Thank you Daniel

Yes, it’s a topic that no one enjoys but I do agree with you I’ll try to use the urine, in fact my soil has been weakened by granule fertilisers and a lot of villagers lost their cattle due to a disease no one knows ,the just cattle go blind and they die, if they are rained you simply see smoke coming out of them standing at one spot and they die so this left us with no animal manure and the pit toilet idea just triggered in my mind but I admire your facts so

Plants are fertilizer because they have collected the nutrients from the soil that they needed for growth and concentrated them. They break down and form humus which has a great ability to retain both nutrients and water and allow excessive water to drain. You can add them as green as long as you don’t add over an inch thick in the planting hole without allowing to compost first since thicker layers will create heat. Brown materials do well when urine is later added. I can not imagine what would cause all those things to happen to cattle.

Dear Dan
I need to know more about how to use ground cover crops e.g. Clover,cowpeas and many more …do I have to grow these first and then when they grow to a certain level or maybe to a time I need to plant the actual crops then I dig them into the soil or I just make holes inside there and seed the crop I want to grow ?
How does this work please?

Hello Faith. I’ll chime in with a few thoughts. Below are a few ways you can use green manure cover crops (gm/ccs):

  1. Grow them together with your main crop. This is called intercropping. To keep the gm/cc crop from climbing plants of the main crop, or competing for resources like light, you can manipulate the planting configuration and timing of your planting activities. You could, for example, plant the gm/cc in alternating rows or strips with the main crop. If growing a fast-climbing gm/cc like velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens), you would probably also want to plant the gm/cc a few weeks after a crop like maize. Gm/ccs that take a while to establish (Lablab [Lablab purpureus] or pigeon pea [Cajanus cajan]), or that aren’t aggressive climbers (bush type/short duration cowpeas [Vigna unguiculata]), could possibly be planted at the same time as your main crop. Consider the length of your rainy season in all of this; delaying the planting of a gm/cc requires a longer rainy season.

  2. Relay or rotate your crops. These involve planting your gm/cc shortly before harvesting the main crop (relay planting) or planting the gm/cc and main crop in alternating seasons (rotation). These approaches avoid competition between your main crop and the gm/cc. Again, consider the length of the rainy season—particularly with relay cropping.

ECHO’s Best Practices Note on Conservation Agriculture discusses the above strategies and includes some photos to give you an idea of what it looks like to integrate gm/ccs with other crops. The improvement to the soil, from gm/ccs, comes through the added organic material (from leaf litter or residue left after the plants die back during the dry season) and minerals contained in that organic material. The gm/ccs I’ve mentioned in this post are leguminous, which means they can “fix” nitrogen, converting nitrogen in the air into forms that plants use. Thus, leguminous gm/ccs are a good source of nitrogen.

Some advocate terminating the gm/cc vines at about the time that the gm/cc plants are flowering (when they have the most nitrogen) and then tilling/incorporating them into the soil. This puts minerals into the soil quickly. Farmers may, however, want to let the gm/cc grow to maturity to harvest the beans (if they are edible). Others advocate leaving gm/cc biomass on the soil surface, in combination with minimum tillage. This latter approach keeps the soil covered. In the tropics, soil coverage is important from the standpoint of protecting the soil from intense sun and heat. Some nitrogen is lost to the air as surface residue decomposes, but surface mulch does move into the soil profile over time, through the activity of earthworms and other soil organisms. As you can see, there are trade-offs.

The benefit of legumes to the soil is probably not going to be immediate. That thought takes us back to the original question about manure. With gm/ccs, you can add lots of organic matter to a field, more so than one could realistically add with just compost or manure. At the same time, I like the concept of combining a gm/cc with compost or manure, especially when using gm/ccs for the first time. The compost/manure releases nutrients to the existing crop while also helping to prevent nitrate (NO3-) nitrogen from leaching past crop roots (important for areas with sandy soil and high rainfall).

Related ECHO resources can be found here. Others with fisthand experience will want to add to the conversation.

Thank very much, it’s well appreciated and there is plenty to learn,there I’m gonna learn and put to practice.