dung - probably one of the most widely used manures
as it was the most widely available. Horse dung from London's
streets and gardens, for example, provided the market gardens
surrounding London with over 60 tons of manure per acre per
year. Horse manure was at its best once it had fermented a
little - most gardeners advised against using it fresh.
dung - often particularly recommended for very dry
and sandy soils.
- almost all working Victorian gardens had at least one large
compost heap. Often scraps of vegetation or cast aside vegetables
were not composted as such, but merely cut up and dug straight
into the soil. Green crops, pond weeds, hedge parings and
fresh cut lawn clippings needed no composting at all according
to advice - they could be added direct to the flower or vegetable
- particularly recommended for vegetable gardens.
dung - this was highly popular, and several families
made their fortune by importing massive quantities of guano
from South America. Otherwise gardeners made do with pigeon
dung (often available in quantities, and recommended for strawberries
and deer dung - not often used in urban gardens as
it was hard to procure, it was used widely in rural areas.
It needed to be dug in quickly while still fresh so as to
retain all its moisture and nutrients.
- another widely available commodity in pre-electrical Britain.
Most people depended on coal fires for cooking, and the soot
could be sprinkled over the surface of the garden. Soot was
not only considered a very powerful fertilizer, gardeners
also believed it acted as a deterrent to wire-worms and maggots.
bone and horn - shavings of bone or horn were believed
to provide an excellent manure but were difficult to procure
in useful quantities.
- always popular as a gardening fertilizer. Gardeners could
collect blood in vast quantities at slaughter houses and butchers,
and also at confectionary manufacturers where cattle blood
was used to separate out the impurities in brown sugar. Of
course, slaughter houses were not the only places blood could
be obtained. Useful contacts could be made in the wards and
theatres of hospitals, and buckets of blood for the flower
bed obtained via the back door. This practice went on so late
as the early 1980s, when one of the editors of this site recalls
watching a theatre sister handing buckets of blood out the
back door to the hospital housekeeper, who kept the hibiscus
in the front garden of the hospital in spectacular bloom with
patients' blood dug in during the dark hours.
- a debate raged over whether or not salt was good or bad
for the garden. Patently, as there was a debate over it, some
gardeners did use salt as a fertilizer, but increasingly by
the early nineteenth century opinion was turning against the
use of salt in soil.
- whether animal or human, it needed to be used quickly before
it 'putrefied'. Gardeners believed it should be diluted with
water. Today, of course, we use it neat on our compost heaps.
ash and charcoal dust - often obtained in considerable
quantities from lime or brick kilns.
tanner's bark and wood shavings.
- used as quick lime, or mild lime.Lime was used more in sandy
soils than clay based soils.
was also often used.
recipe for a cheap and useful fertilizer was as follows: