A llama taking a break
Steve Hanna, an elder at Berryville's First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is also the proud owner of some llamas. He wanted to know if the church's Community Gardeners could use some llama manure for the all-natural garden they operate each year behind the church's main building. "I don't know if the stuff is any good," he said, "but you're welcome to have it."
The Community Gardeners didn't know if llama manure was useful either, but a quick search of the term llama manure got them quite excited about it's potential, especially because it doesn't need to be composted before using.
The Nature of Llama Manure
Llama manure is lower in organic matter content than manures of most other barnyard livestock like cows, horses and sheep, but it still has plenty to improve soil texture and water-holding capacity. This lower organic content allows llama manure to be spread directly onto plants without fear of 'burning' them. It is the decomposition of organic matter which produces the heat that can damage plant roots.
Compared to the other barnyard animals, the nitrogen and potassium content of llama droppings is comparatively high, an indication of good fertilizer value. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are the major plant nutrients; they are the familiar N-P-K on fertilizer bags.
Phosphorus is relatively low, but it is low in most other livestock manure as well Calcium and magnesium content is about average. And salt content is not too high but it is high enough that one should not apply llama poop directly onto seedlings or improperly mixed into the soil.
Overall, llama manure looks like it is a great organic fertilizer. Of course, organic fertilizers are usually lower in nutrient content that synthetic fertilizers-so more needs to be applied to get the same amount of nutrients. For example, llama manure would be about 1.5-0.2-1.1 versus the 20-10-5 of synthetic fertilizer and gardeners will need to apply about 13 times as much llama manure to get the same amount of nitrogen.
How to Use and Store Llama Beans
Llama "beans" can be used directly in your garden without danger of burning plants. If the beans aren't kept moist they will harden and form a white crust taking longer to break down. If gardeners intend to store the beans for any time prior to using they should moisten the beans (damp not dripping) and keep them well covered. During the first couple of days check and re-moisten if needed. In approximately a month the beans will break down and look like peat moss, ready to amend your garden.
Because the Disciples' Community Garden is also a teaching garden or "gardening laboratory," they often try new out techniques, materials, and plants to compare approaches against one another. Richard and Jane Pille, from Holiday Island, gave the church's gardeners 25 lbs of composted rabbit manure a few weeks ago. The gardeners plan to apply the rabbit manure to one of their raised beds and the llama manure to an adjacent bed to compare results. The church Blog provides a running account of such experiments.
"We thank Mr. Hanna for his generous gift," said John Heartbreak, the garden's manager. "We're sure the results will be llama-licious!"