Horn chips

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Good reasons for organic fertilizer

The global carbon cycle is known to many people in the wake of global warming. There is also a global nitrogen cycle, but much less attention is paid to it. Its impact on the environment should not be underestimated - and the most important reason why organic fertilizers such as horn shavings should be preferred in the garden.

The influence of fossil fuels such as coal and oil on the carbon cycle is comparable to the influence of the Haber-Bosch process on the nitrogen cycle. With this method, which was developed by the chemists Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch at the beginning of the 20th century, it was possible for the first time to convert large quantities of air-nitrogen into ammonia under heat and high pressure. This was the birth of the mineral nitrogen fertilizer, because the gaseous ammonia can be relatively easily converted into other nitrogen compounds such as urea or nitrate. In the natural way, only butterflies such as beans, lupines and broom used the nitrogen of the air with the help of nodule bacteria. The second event in which nitrogen enters the nitrogen cycle is thunderstorms - perhaps you have already noticed the distinct odor of ammonia when lightning strikes your surroundings?
The Haber-Bosch process is both a curse and a blessing: on the one hand, it is indispensable for ensuring the nutrition of the world's population, but on the other hand it is also the origin of many problems such as factory farming and nitrate in drinking water. In addition, the accumulation of plant nutrients in nature, the so-called eutrophication, leads to algal blooms and the decline of plant species that are only competitive in nutrient-poor locations such as raised bogs.
If you do not want to support these processes, you should fertilize your plants organically - for example with horn shavings. They contain different proteins and the nitrogen bound in them is already part of the global cycle. So one operates only a kind of nutrient recycling. Those who use mineral nitrogen fertilizer, however, introduce additional, chemically produced nitrogen compounds into the circulation.

Horn shavings: origin and production

The horn shavings offered in Germany are mostly from overseas, especially from South America. The reason: In Europe, cattle are usually already dehorned as young calves, so they do not hurt each other in the narrow stables. In South America, on the other hand, this measure is usually omitted, as the cattle graze there usually on large pastures.

Fertilize with horn shavings

Working in horn shavings

Horn shavings are the quickest to work flat on the ground after spreading (left) with a cultivator (right)

The horns of the animals are not the only raw material for the production of horn shavings, the claws are used. Both are shredded in special horn mills and then filled into sacks. The only horn mill in Germany is located near Ulm and is operated by the company Oscorna, a large manufacturer of organic fertilizers.


Horn shavings are an almost pure nitrogen fertilizer and consist for the most part of animal protein. The N content varies slightly depending on the starting material and is approximately between 12 and 15 percent. The mass fractions of phosphate, sulfur and potassium, however, are negligible with less than one percent. With this composition, horn shavings are suitable for most gardens as universal fertilizer, because the floor laboratories find time and again that more than half of the private gardens with the main nutrients phosphate and potassium are already sufficiently supplied or heavily overfertilized. If you use a complex fertilizer in these gardens, the nutrient structure in the soil gets even further out of balance, which can even lead to growth disorders in the plants in extreme cases.

Mix horn shavings under the compost

A mixture of horn shavings and compost results in a good bamboo fertilizer

Like all organic fertilizers, nitrogen is bound in different protein compounds. The horn shavings must first be decomposed by the microorganisms in the soil before the plants can absorb the contained nitrogen. However, horn chips are hardly suitable for building up the humus content in the soil. On the one hand, the protein compounds are decomposed so strongly that hardly any fiber remains, on the other hand, the amount administered is too low to increase the humus content significantly.

Horn shavings, corn grit or horn meal?

The grain has a great influence on how fast and sustainable a horn fertilizer works. The grain size of horn shavings is over five millimeters, so they act like a slow-release fertilizer.They release the nitrogen slowly but continuously for about a year in small quantities. Horn shavings should therefore be used as soon as possible in the autumn to achieve a fertilising effect until spring, when plant growth resumes. It is also advisable to apply horn chips before mulching with bark mulch - they prevent decomposition processes in the mulch layer from leading to nitrogen depletion of the soil.
Horn semolina works with a grain size between one and five millimeters slightly faster than horn chips. Who wants a short-term effect, which should fall back on horn meal. Here, the grain size is less than one millimeter.
For all horn fertilizers applies: After spreading, work them flat in the ground. If you spread the fertilizer only on the surface, the decomposition process takes longer, because the microorganisms can not "attack" from all sides.

Properly fertilize with horn shavings

Horn fertilizer can basically be used as fertilizer for all plants. Since they do not affect the pH of the soil, they are also suitable for calcareous plants such as rhododendron or blueberries.


You can fertilize the nutrient-needy rhubarb in the autumn with a large portion of horn shavings

The longer-term the effect, the sooner the fertilizer should be applied. In spring, vegetables are best fertilized with fast-acting cornmeal or corn semolina, while you can supply long-lasting crops such as strawberries and rhubarb or even shrubs and shrubs in the ornamental garden with horn shavings in autumn. With a smaller grain size, depending on the culture, the application rate per fertilizer is reduced, but you fertilize accordingly earlier. The dosage of horn fertilizers does not depend on a few grams, because you can hardly fertilize your plants because of the slow release of nutrients.
Occasionally it is also recommended to sprinkle a few horn shavings into the planting hole when planting woody plants. However, we advise against it, because the horn fertilizer gets too deep into the soil, where it is only inadequately decomposed due to lack of oxygen and low biological activity. However, it is highly recommended to mix the horn fertilizer with ripe compost before spreading. The compost accelerates the release of nitrogen and also provides other important nutrients and trace elements.

Video Board: Complete Chip 'n' Dale - Part 9 of 23 - Trailer Horn.

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