Just Batty For Gardens

By Rita Jacinto

Just Batty For Gardens

How does my garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells…

And fertilizer, you idiot!

Gardens are a work in progress, at least mine is. There is no end to what needs to be done, what could have been done better etc. etc. The point is to get outside and spend a little time with your hands in the earth, if the seeds you plant sprout and the flowers grow and bloom great! If not so what? Have fun, listen to the birds sing and the bee’s buzz, watch the spiders weaving their webs and the ants marching along and feel the sun on your back. Let yourself drift off into a reverie, it will be good for your soul.

Don’t forget your houseplants. By now they are putting on new growth but it isn’t too late to repot and start your summer fertilizer program. Make it easy on yourself, set a table up outside and gather all the stuff you need, new pots, fresh potting soil, soil amendments etc. Then get your leafy house companions and bring them outside where you won’t have to worry about getting dirt and dead leaves all over the place. Now take a good look at them, prune them if they look straggly, check for bugs, remove dead leaves and branches. Replant into a pot one size larger using fresh new potting soil. If they don’t need to be repotted I usually scrape about an inch or so of soil off the top and add some fresh new stuff. The nutrients in potting soil are used up pretty fast by the plants and they will appreciate the fresh soil and nutrients. If you really want to thrill them you can add a little bat guano to each plant.

Bat and seabird guano is really cool stuff. The word guano is Quichua, an Incan language, which means “droppings of seabirds”. For centuries the Inca gathered the stuff on Islands and rocks off the coast of Peru. It was so highly valued as a fertilizer that the gathering areas were protected and only especially chosen people could do the gathering. Violation of these laws was punished by death!

American agriculture during the 1800’s became so addicted to the stuff that a law was passed in congress on August 8, 1856. This bill set up protection to be given to any US citizen who may discover guano. Any US citizen was allowed to take possession and occupy any Island, rock or key where guano was found. The only stipulation was that the guano could only be sold in the US to US citizens.

Today the gathering of guano, especially that of bats, is highly regulated to provide protection for the bats. There is a cave in Texas, the Bracken Cave, where the largest known colony of bats in the world live. Scientists estimate that 20 million Mexican free tail bats use the cave as their summer home. Bat Conservation International holds the rights to harvesting the gold from the cave. In November when the bats have headed south for the winter they go in with huge vacuum trucks and tidy the cave for the returning bats. On average they suck up 50 tons of guano each year. Let’s see 20 million bats, 50 tons of droppings…well you do the math!

Bat guano is a highly touted organic fertilizer containing billions of live bacteria that help fight fungus. There are also millions of microbes that can help in bioremediation, which means they eat up toxic chemicals in the soil and 13 trace elements. The actual chemical makeup varies depending on the type of guano and whom it comes from, and you thought guano was guano. So check labels for specific N-P-K info.

You can contact Bat Conservation International at 1-800-538-BATS or online at batcon.org.

Publishers Note: This article is printed with permission. Portions have been edited in the interest of space.  To read Ms. Jacinto’s complete feature and for more information about growing and feeding  other botanicals log on to botanical.com

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