Gardening

Bats & Guano: Gifts From the Garden Gods

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Say the words feces, scat, feculence, crap, caca, and a shovel-full of other euphemisms and you would be describing pretty much any animal’s defecation. Poop, to put it politely. But say the word guano and you’re talkin’ bats and seabirds only. Moreover, bats are the only mammals to excrete guano.

It’s a Dung Deal

So, this article is about bat guano. That, and how this amazing organic excrement can increase the development and growth of nearly every plant in your garden, greenhouse, or grow room. Brimming with nutrients and high in nitrogen and phosphorus, bat guano can be used to feed plants, amend poor soil, or even enhance the texture and nutritional value of already good dirt.

But not all bat dung is created equal. Some bat species are frugivores or fruit-eaters. Their waste contains higher levels of phosphorus. Insectivores, of course, eat insects. They tend to produce guano with increased amounts of nitrogen. Read the package labeling and choose the one that best suits your growing needs.

Very Eco Friendly

Beyond their highly beneficial waste, bats are extremely important to agriculture. Actually, to the entire ecosystem. Their dung often contains seeds from the foods they’ve eaten which are air-dropped over the ground in a flyover evacuation. This provides an excellent seed distribution system in a classic symbiotic relationship. Additionally, bats help control the pest population for homesteaders, farmers, and city dwellers alike.

One report suggests a single bat can eat up to a thousand mosquitoes in one night. Others say a few hundred, and that sounds more feasible, but if they eat just one, it’s a better world already.

Here’s another plus. Were you aware that over 300 species of fruits rely on and are pollinated by bats? The list includes mangoes, avocados, and bananas. Bats exclusively pollinate the agave plant which produces tequila. So, no bats, no tequila. Ay caramba!

6 Facts About Bats

  • There are some 1,400 species of bats worldwide.
  • About 45 bat species live in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Some bats can fly over 100 miles per hour (160 km).
  • Chiroptophobia is the fear of bats. (Don’t we all have a little of that?)
  • Around 80 medicines are produced from plants that depend on bats for their survival.
  • Baby bats are called pups while a group of bats is known as a colony.

Loaded With Nutrients

Bat guano is filled with nourishing macro and micronutrients. Macro are the ones plants need in large amounts. Like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Micronutrients include manganese, boron, iron, calcium, zinc and sulfur.

Guano is also rich in nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). The numbers you read on a bag of fertilizer refer to the percentage of NPK it contains. In that order. Guano’s levels are generally 10-3-1.

NPK in Action

  • Nitrogen helps promote lush, green growth in plants
  • Phosphorus aids in flowering and root development
  • Potassium supports overall good health

The high nitrogen content in guano is excellent for plants in the vegetative state while the elevated phosphorus levels promote stronger branch development and bigger blooms during flowering. Be careful with this fertilizer on new vegetation or first feedings. All things in moderation. High nitrogen quantities can burn a young plant’s developing roots, disabling nutrient and water uptake.

Guano also makes an excellent fertilizer for herbs, fruits, and vegetables of almost every kind. Surprisingly, in addition to its nutritive value to plants, bat guano is also very good for the earth.

5 Ways Bat Guano Benefits the Soil

  • Microbes: Bat guano is teeming with them. These tiny microscopic organisms help detoxify the soil.
  • Microorganisms also loosen and aerate the soil, allowing it to hold more water while creating space for roots.
  • Improves soil drainage from the aeration or creation of space for air.
  • A natural fungicide that helps control nematodes and protects the plant.
  • Accelerates decomposition in the creation of compost.

It also assists in effectively breaking down organic matter in the earth.

Guano can be spread on top of the soil and watered in or blended into the soil with your favorite compost. Its addition can be an effective soil booster and texture upgrade. The specifics of how much to use and at what proportion are all available online.

It’s Time For Tea!

Many growers like to work with guano in liquid form. This is done by creating what is known as a “bat guano tea” which can then be sprayed directly onto the plants or poured at the base. The recipe is pretty straightforward.

You’ll be adding about a tablespoon of dried guano to a quart/liter of warm, preferably, unchlorinated water. To make larger amounts, use one cup of guano per gallon (3.78 L). Stir gently into the water until well mixed. Be careful, though. Read a little further before you make this.

Let it sit overnight and apply directly to the plant’s leaves via spraying or pouring onto the base of the plant. Some gardeners expressed that due to the complex structure of guano, it may take a week or more before the plant begins to fully utilize the nutrients contained therein. You should be growing strong after that.

The Masked Gardener

Be careful with bat guano. ALWAYS wear a mask and avoid breathing in its dust. This powdery poop can carry a dangerous fungus called Histoplasma that causes Histoplasmosis in humans. Histoplasmosis is a nasty respiratory disease that can be fatal if left untreated.

So exercise caution when working with guano in the garden, greenhouse, or anywhere, really. These microscopic spores thrive in warm, moist areas like the lungs, so you don’t want to be unknowingly breathing in those dangerous pathogens.

To the Bat Cave! (Not So Fast)

Know of a cave or two near you and are thinking of gathering your own guano? Forget it. While mysterious and exciting, caves are extremely dangerous places and not for the inexperienced. And trying to collect bat guano only adds to the danger.

Within a dark cave, you can get lost, slip into a bottomless hole, break bones, drown, be poisoned by toxic air, or perhaps, meet a friend of Gollum’s.

Ergo, unless you are an experienced spelunker (cave explorer) or on a guided tour, you should avoid even entering a cave. Instead, enter a garden supply center or go online and buy your guano. It’s a lot easier and a much safer option.

Batting a Thousand

As you may have surmised, bats are pretty amazing little creatures and great for the environment in a wealth of ways. From their critical pollination of some of our favorite fruits and crops to helping control the insect population. Add to that their gift of the golden guano and ours is a much better world with bats in it.

So if you’re looking to turbo-charge your favorite foliage, you’ve found the perfect fertilizer. Not only are you going to love the results, your plants are guano love you for it.

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