APRIL 7, 1997

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Home & Garden

Free fertilizer produces terrific gardens

free fertilizer by Deborah Stone
The secret to getting those gardens to burst with fruit and blossom beautifully is in the fertilizer. Don't worry, it's not some expensive, hard-to-find kind. This type is 100% natural and totally free for the taking.
   It's the manure by-product that comes from the numerous horses that live in our area. With a single horse producing about forty pounds of manure a day, in a county with one of the highest horse populations in the country, you can imagine that the supply is plentiful. However, you may be surprised to learn that the demand is now on the rise, as people realize that composted horse manure is an extremely effective and rich soil amendment for their gardens.
   Gardeners boast of their monstrous plants and healthy flowers, the results of using manure in their soil. It makes sense then, to bring gardeners and horse owners together.
   Hollywood Hill resident and horse owner Susan Cyr thought this idea was the perfect solution to meeting the needs of both parties, and about two years ago, she began a match-up program in response to a King County ordinance requiring livestock owners to manage their animals' excrement.
   The Manure Share Program, as it is called, began locally, and its success attracted the attention of the King Conservation District. KCD took it over last November, hiring Cyr as the coordinator, and is now sponsoring the project, expanding it rapidly regionwide.
   How it works is simple. Anyone who has manure or is interested in receiving it can call the manure hotline at 806-5213. Callers with manure will be added to the list of donors; callers wanting it will receive a list of individuals and stables that have manure to give. The latter group needs to call ahead to arrange for pick-up of the manure, as most donors will not deliver. All manure and lists are free.
   An additional service is now available that entails horse owners fully composting their manure on site and then bagging it into empty grain bags. The KCD will pick it up and deliver it to plant sales and other gardening events for free distribution.
   "Manure is being seen as an asset, not a liability," says Cyr. "The stuff is worth its weight in gold. I use it in my gardens and get unbelievable results." Others seem to share this opinion, as Cyr has heard from gardeners all over the state since the project began. She adds, "This exchange program benefits both groups of people and also aids the environment."
   For additional information or a list of donors, call Susan Cyr at 806-5213.