The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Collecting goose manure for the garden

Goose poopLooking for fertility for your small urban garden?  Search no further than your local golf course or park.

Canada Geese love these "lawns" and they camp out on the grass spreading their manure.  Park managers will nearly always be more than thrilled if you scoop some up (just like bagging your dog's poop during an urban walk) and bring it home to mix with a high carbon material like leaves.

Goose manure is about 77% water and has a fertilizing value of about 2-4-2 when dried.  That means a lot of high quality phosphate, which is hard to find in plant-based compost.  Of course, goose poop is a bit too strong to apply directly to your plants, but you can either add it to your compost pile for a dose of nitrogen or mix with mulch for a spring boost around perennials.  Another alternative would be to water down the goose poop to make a manure tea for feeding house plants, especially greedy eaters like dwarf citrus.

While you're fertilizing your garden, you'll even be helping the local watershed.  Phosphates from concentrated masses of goose poop can cause algae blooms in nearby waters and end up killing fish and other life.  Scooping poop can keep the water clean and your garden green.

My newest 99 cent ebook lists a host of other free and cheap sources of compost and mulch.

This post is part of our Tips from the Urban Homestead lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Ok, I have to ask, have you actually ever done this? While this makes sense, I don't think I'll be doing it. I really don't think there will be many people doing this.
Comment by Fritz Tue Oct 18 13:23:01 2011

I haven't, but Mom did, which is why I included it in the lunchtime series. It wouldn't make sense on a large scale, but if you've just got a small city garden like she does, collecting goose poop makes sense.

And she's not the only one. When I was researching the fertilizer value of goose poop, I ran across some folks talking about their Asian neighbors collecting goose poop. In the U.S., we consider so many things waste which are actually high quality fertilizer, while people from China and other parts of Asia seem to be more in touch with free sources of organic fertilizers. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us.

Comment by anna Tue Oct 18 14:24:14 2011
I have this vague impression that goose poop is unusually full of diseases, compared to other things, and that you really don't want to handle it. Is that just ick factor, or is it actually yuckier than other sorts of fertilizer?
Comment by irilyth [] Tue Oct 18 21:27:23 2011
"Oh my! Now that's a good one!" she would exclaim, pointing her finger at a plop of scat.
Comment by Maggie Tue Oct 18 22:07:18 2011

Maggie --- Yup. The whole lunchtime series will include photos of her or by her.

Josh --- I can't think why goose poop would be more dangerous than any other kind of manure. Of course, you generally don't touch fresh manure of any sort directly, don't put your fingers in your mouth afterward, and do wash your hands. But I'd say goose poop is probably safer than scooping your dog's poop since dogs are meat-eating mammals and thus are more likely to pass on diseases we can take in.

Comment by anna Wed Oct 19 07:48:37 2011
I echo the above comments. You will find a very toxic form of e-coli on your goose droppings. One of our sons took a dip in a lake favored by geese when he was two years old and picked up a bout of e.coli which led to a case of hemolytic uremic syndrome. He spent close to three weeks in a major hospital in kidney failure and one step away from death.
Comment by Bill Wed Oct 19 22:28:11 2011

I'm so sorry to hear about your son's illness! However, the problem was likely the concentration of manure, not the species. If a few dozen chickens had been spreading their manure into the lake, chances are it would have been just as disease-laden.

Geese are a huge problem in areas like that because people feed them, so they've stopped migrating and have increased their populations far beyond the levels the environment can handle. In effect, we've created CAFOs for geese around our lakes and golf courses.

Again, as long as you follow the tips I outline above, handling goose poop is no worse than any other manure. Swimming in poopy water breaks all the rules.

Comment by anna Thu Oct 20 08:12:32 2011
My husband and I are looking at buying a place in town, just a five minute walk from the local City Park which is rich in goose droppings. Knowing that I can gather that and add it to our (future) compost is fantastically exciting for me! Yay for free manure!
Comment by Angela Sat Apr 21 15:21:51 2012
Angela --- I'll look forward to hearing how your poop scooping goes! I'll bet you'll help clean up the park while feeding your garden.
Comment by anna Sat Apr 21 15:45:15 2012
I was just thinking about all those times my Dad would take me and my brothers to the park and we would spend half the time there warning each other "Look out for the goose grease!" And now I really will be looking out for the goose grease!
Comment by Angela Sat Apr 21 15:51:26 2012
I have been looking at all that goose poop myself and thinking it looks like must be good fertilizer. You have confirmed my reasoning. How does one cure it, and how long should it be cured?
Comment by Carla Wed Jun 6 00:34:31 2012
Carla --- Think of goose poop as a lot like chicken poop. It's very high in nitrogen, so add it to something high in carbon (like autumn leaves or shredded newspaper), moisten well, and let compost for a few months.
Comment by anna Wed Jun 6 07:54:01 2012

I too have been thinking about using goose poo on the compost heap to enrich it. However, just a reminder, that unlike cows and horses, geese are not vegetarian - they eat fish, worms, slugs etc., so their manure is bound to contain bacteria that could take a long time to decompose to a safe usable level.(I've also seen them eating dog poo!)

Comment by Hilary Sat Mar 23 15:38:34 2013
I know where your mom is there. And that makes me laugh so hard because those geese are pests! It's good to know they're good for SOMETHING anyway!
Comment by Tue Jun 18 16:58:40 2013
I am new to North Carolina and have purchased my dream property on Lake Norman. I have the best property to finally start growing my own food! I am plagued by geese on my property and have wondered if I can maybe make "lemonade from lemons". I just started composting to start my garden this year. I do hope that the goose poop will help my compost! I certainly need to get rid of it somehow!!!!
Comment by Wendi Fri Feb 27 17:17:48 2015
Good advice, I have a flock of geese that have daily goose poop conventions on my dock. I'll have to try this out.
Comment by RAndy Fri Jul 3 09:47:05 2015
Any recommendations on application rates? Have collected a 2.5 g bucket at various stages of decomposition and wanted to spread in my vegetable raised beds now and allow to break down in there for my summer garden. Really more to keep the soil web going. My beds are 4x4x2'... Not worried about ecoli... Ecoli has a 4 month shelf life and will be gone by the time I plant and will take 80 or so days after that for tomatoes anyways...
Comment by Anonymous Mon Feb 27 11:40:08 2017

I have a good size area in my back yard to spread the manure out so it dries out. Smell doesn't seem to be bad.. Is that not a good idea to "season" it? Is it always best practice to make a compost PILE with it necessarily? I understand heat can help but...

Comment by Daniel J Fri Jan 8 00:13:17 2021

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