It’s a tricky subject to bring up with a new garden client.
They’ve invited me to cultivate a beautiful garden for their family, because they’ve heard I grow delicious organic fruit and vegetables, and amazing flowers and succulents. I’ve shown them photos of my gardens, mostly close-ups of beds I’ve grown for my clients, like Patrick Dempsey, William Shatner, Angela Lindvall, and The Ranch at Live Oak, Malibu.
Then we get started. We talk about the healthy vegetable varieties I’ll sow from seed, and perhaps start planning a fruit tree orchard, with apples and plums and citrus of many kinds. We’ll discuss carpentry and landscaping, placement for the beds, and for the compost bin. We’ll talk about colours for the flowers, and discuss any personal favourite varieties of produce and flowers. Perhaps the children like peas and carrots, maybe they love roses, and perhaps there’s a little piece of home they’d like me to grow for them, or a wonderful exotic fruit they’ve discovered on an overseas vacation.
And then, I bring up the subject of poop.
An awkward moment…
Poop is what makes my gardens delicious. It’s why the flowers bloom, what makes the vegetables tasty. The power behind the verdant, the fuel for the floral fragrance.
Poop comes in many kinds, and as long as the beast that generates it is vegetarian, it’s a wonderful source of plant nutrients, and a friend of the earthworms we adore.
I’m not averse to non-animal nutrients too, in fact, I liberally sprinkle crumbled seaweed into the holes I dig for new plants, and I’m a stickler for composting kitchen scraps, which are totally vegetable based and poop-free. In fact, my gardens would be diminished considerably without fertilizers from the marine and land vegetable kingdoms.
But you can’t beat a nice bit of poop! My favourite poop is alpaca. Failing that, I’m quite happy to crumble goat poop, chicken poop, and even a little donkey poop directly into the beds. Also bat poop, it’s totally killer if you can get your hands on a bag of bat poop!
In Malibu, we have lots of farm animals, and so most of my clients have at least a few chickens on the property who are happy to oblige. That’s the way to go if you can, because not only will your poop be free and your supply steady, you’ll also be able to control what the animal eats, which means you can be certain they’re eating an organic diet.
If you have space for a pile of poop, I’m a fan of letting it rot first. In fact, I simply won’t allow horse poop into my beds unless it’s sat in the sun for a while to mature.
However, there’s one kind of poop that’s generally on tap…
Fish poop. As pictured alongside me in the photo above.
Fish poop is one of the world’s great garden fertilisers, and is found in abundance in many gardens, in the fish pond. What my clients generally have done in the past is pay somebody to clean the pond, and to throw all the lovely pond water regularly down the drain.
What I prefer to do is to keep all the lovely old pond water, and use it to water the garden. Which not only saves money on water, and is a much greener alternative to throwing it away, but also provide ample quantities of delicious organic vegetables!
If you have a pond, please consider either keeping the old water in barrels, or why not hook up a drip irrigation system than uses it instead of regular tap water? You just need a pump, which costs about $100, and you can fit it directly to an existing irrigation system.
Easy peasy, fish poop everywhere!
P.S. Photo by my pal Emma Hewitt, sitting by one of my client’s waterlilies ponds, and gratefully wearing my friend Sue Glasscock’s excellent hat!