Several weeks ago, I wanted to plant some Liatrus bulbs in a hidden corner of my garden. This will be my first year to plant these shriveled bulbs that hopefully will grow into beautiful perennial flower spikes. I wanted to give them a great start, and the soil around our house is nutrient poor, heavy clay. Now, when it comes to amending my soil, I have many choices. I narrowed my choices to 2; barf or poop. I can hear my readers ask: Are you crazy? Let me explain, I just have some strange names for some of my plant growing formulas, hence “barf” and “poop”. And let me also put in this disclaimer; the experts may or may not agree with my formulas. I’m just telling you what works for me here in Southern Illinois; feel free to experiment with your own plant growing formulas. Look at the photo of my garden and tell me whether or not my plants look happy.
I compost my kitchen scraps, as long as they are natural, meatless and will decompose. This morning, I happened to have a compost bag of carrot tops and peelings, banana peels, coffee grounds, leftover white rice, and the stringy junk from snow peas. So I soaked a handful of dog food, threw the softened dog food and the contents of my compost bag into my well worn food processor and ground it all up. I then added enough water to make a gallon of this disgusting mixture I call “barf”. Why do I use dog food? I read the list of ingredients on the bag and found that dog food contains things that are beneficial for soil, such as bone meal. Dog food keeps dogs healthy, so I figured it might just keep my plants happy! Plus, I always have dog food around, so it’s very convenient and requires no special preparation. Since it’s greasy and may not be as cheap per pound as some conventional soil amendments, I probably just use about 10-20 pounds per year on about 5,000 square feet of garden beds.
I thought maybe I would just water the freshly planted bulbs with “barf”. But that still did not do anything to make that clay soil more plant friendly. Usually, if I just plant something straight into our soil, it rots away the first spring. So, I thought of the free soil amendments I have at my disposal. Shall I use compost? Nope, used all the good stuff a month ago, and will have to wait a few months for my new waste pile to turn into compost. Wood chips that the local electric coop guys dumped in my yard last winter? Nope, the chips have not decomposed enough. Instead of adding to the soil, the chips would probably take some nutrition away. Maybe horse poop would be a good choice. My wonderful neighbor brings me composted poop from the local riding stable whenever I sweet talk him (or beg for poop, whichever comes first). The poop is composted, so it should not burn up the tender foliage that shoots up from the ground.
So, I thought to myself, why not till some poop into the soil, plant the bulbs, and water them with the “barf”? I did just that, the plants have shot up, and they look wonderful. Hooray for free soil amendments!