Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Night Soil

I ran across a term the other day that I had not heard of before and was interested to see what it meant. Simply put, it is a nice way of saying "human poo" collected and used as fertilizer. (I could say “excrement”, but I’m not that up-town)

As I have told you, I am always looking for ways to save money in my garden. However, I think I have found the place that I draw the line. This is not something I will be trying any time soon; and I do not recommend it for any of you out there either.
I know you all love to have pictures in the Blog, But I decided this may be one time to pass on the pix!

As a historical reference however I think it is an interesting bit of business.  Sewage pipes are, for all intents and purposes, a new invention as far as mankind goes. In Georgian England the smell of rotting garbage filled the nostrils of even the highest class of people. Garbage lined the streets in the best - as well as the more seedy parts of town. The human excrement (ok, now I'll use it) was removed manually by men called Night-Soil Men. (You think you’ve got a bad job…) Believe it or not, these men were independent contractors – in other words they chose it as a career! They hauled bucket loads of human, animal and household wastes from the back yard Privies to the countryside where it would be used for manure or fertilizer. They were only allowed to work from midnight to 5am. Without going into too much detail (too late) they would climb down into the outhouse, collect their treasures, slop it into their carts and haul it away to eagerly waiting farmers; A messy job to say the least.

As sophisticated as mankind is there are still places on earth where night soil is still used today. For thousands of years China’s farmers have used night soil and in many regions still do. Prior to synthetic fertilizers night soil was an important fertilizer for nearly all crops.

Sophistication set aside, it makes one wonder why it could be used so extensively for so many decades without fear of toxins, diseases, etc. Or, maybe they did have these types of problems and just didn’t know what was causing it. It also begs to question, if we were all eating fresh food and vegetables instead of processed foods with ingredients that we can’t pronounce. Would we be safe using night soil to fertilize our gardens?

Food for thought – or more accurately, Poop for thought.

Get your hands dirty! (Just not that dirty)


  1. "Biosolids" are already making there way into some composts. I don't have a problem with it. At least on my flowers: I might be more picky on my veggies, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it either. I think its good recycling, as long as they are screened for toxins and the like.

  2. I was actually thinking of doing a follow-up article about sludge being used in compost - and the EPA wanting to call it ORGANIC. If it was -only- poo, it would be organic. It's all the rest of the bad stuff in it that's not good for us or our environment.
    Thanks for the comment!

  3. Are these biosolids and composts you guys are talking about in your the similar to the stuff you can pick up for free from sewer plants?


Thank you so much for commenting! Sign up to be a Follower so you don't miss any of my posts!