Win a copy of For the Love of Paw Paws this week in the Fruit Trees forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • paul wheaton
stewards:
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Mike Jay Haasl
  • Burra Maluca
garden masters:
  • James Freyr
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Steve Thorn
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Dave Burton
  • Pearl Sutton

Hair as garden fertilizer

 
pollinator
Posts: 754
Location: Southern Illinois
142
transportation cat dog fungi trees building writing rocket stoves woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello everyone,

I have been thinking recently of an unusual fertilizer—human hair.  I keep my hair very short—about 1/4 inch and I trim my hair on average once per week.  Aside from a roughly marble sized drop of shampoo, I don’t have anything special in my hair.  I usually trim my hair in the bathroom and throw it away.  However, I have been reading recently about hair being especially useful as a source of garden inputs.

I am striving to make my gardens completely free from the need for outside fertility.  I am well on my way as I use urine as a great, quick acting source of nitrogen with a little phosphorus and potassium to boot, and comfrey as a slightly slower acting source of much the same nutrients.  From what I understand, hair is a very rich source of nitrogen but in a very slow release form.  Better still, as my hair rarely gets to even a 1/2 inch, the clippings are very short and unlikely to form tangled or knots in the ground.

I am thinking about just applying to the surface, or maybe chopping it into the beds.  I am curious if anyone else has tried this and wondering if there is any other manner for spreading/applying.  For the record, my bed is extremely rich in fungal activity, having been inoculated with wine caps for over a year.

If anyone has any thoughts, I would love to hear them.

Thanks in advance,

Eric
 
pollinator
Posts: 670
Location: Ontario, Canada
144
homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've put my hair and my dogs' hair in both my vermicompost bins and directly on the gardens.  I've heard that hair on the gardens can keep squirrels away, but I'm not sure of the efficacy.  The worms did break the hair down, though it took a while.

I like to recycle my used materials this way.  I figure every little bit helps, and it adds up.
 
gardener
Posts: 6274
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
1028
hugelkultur dog forest garden duck fish fungi hunting books chicken writing homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hair is primarily composed of protein, notably alpha-keratin.
Keratin is made up of polypeptide chains of amino acids such as glycine, alanine, and cysteine.
The individual amino acids are held together by polypeptide bonds, and there are multiple other complex bonds involved.
In one single strand of hair, three alpha helices are twisted together to form a protofibril.
Then, nine protofibril join together in a circle around two or more to form an 11 stranded cable that is called microfibril.
Then, hundreds of these microfibrils are cemented into an irregular fibrous bundle called macrofibril.
These macrofibrils are then joined to make the cortex or main body of the hair fiber.

Hair is just about insoluble in water, cold, hot, warm doesn't matter. You can place hair into a compost heap and 12 months later you have a strong probability of finding it still there.

I think you are better off letting the birds use it for their nests than to try and get it to be a garden amendment, there are not any enzymes that break it down, only strong acids or bases dissolve hair.

Redhawk
 
pollinator
Posts: 197
Location: Gulf Islands, Canada
54
hugelkultur cat books medical herbs homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have pretty long hair (mid-back length), plus a husband, 3 long-haired cats and a dog; all of our hair/fur goes into the compost and I've never seen any left over in otherwise finished compost. I've also placed scraps of fabric made out of animal hair fibers into the compost and they break down too. Not sure what's doing the job in my compost bin, but I know vermicomposting worms can break down both human hair and natural fabrics, and I would guess there are other creepy crawlies that can do the same.
 
pollinator
Posts: 135
Location: Western Idaho
31
earthworks greening the desert ungarbage
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've always ran a buzz-cut and also always have put the trimmings in with the compost, my hair is never really more than a couple inches when I cut it so once it goes in the pile I never see it again, not that I'm looking terribly hard for it, it's just gone.
 
pollinator
Posts: 476
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
85
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I cut my husband's, my son's, and my own hair;  all haircuts are performed outside:  no cleanup necessary.  I try to keep away from the edibles, though (trying to extricate year-old inch-long hairs from a bunch of thyme is not fun).  Like Redhawk suggests, the birds seem to like the longer trimmings.  
 
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Meg Mitchell, long hair can become wrapped around the legs, feet, and toes of birds, rodents, and other smaller critters creating a tourniquet effect. I’m a registered veterinary nurse in California USA and have seen this firsthand in domestic pets. I have colleagues who work in wildlife rehab and they frequently advise against leaving hair, yarn bits, string, etc. out for wildlife to make use of for the same reasons.
People used to make elaborate collages and mandalas out of the hair of loved ones. A google search for “Victorian hair art” will show many examples. Or paintbrushes? Maybe something artistic would be a better option for your collected hair?
 
Meg Mitchell
pollinator
Posts: 197
Location: Gulf Islands, Canada
54
hugelkultur cat books medical herbs homestead ungarbage
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Raytoe Nagy wrote:Meg Mitchell, long hair can become wrapped around the legs, feet, and toes of birds, rodents, and other smaller critters creating a tourniquet effect. I’m a registered veterinary nurse in California USA and have seen this firsthand in domestic pets. I have colleagues who work in wildlife rehab and they frequently advise against leaving hair, yarn bits, string, etc. out for wildlife to make use of for the same reasons.
People used to make elaborate collages and mandalas out of the hair of loved ones. A google search for “Victorian hair art” will show many examples. Or paintbrushes? Maybe something artistic would be a better option for your collected hair?



Hi Raytoe, I think you are mixing two posts together. I'm not recommending anyone leave hair out for birds and rodents; I put mine in the compost bin. Cheers.
 
gardener
Posts: 2485
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
179
forest garden trees urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I wonder if hair could be used as a coconut coir or peat moss substitute...
 
pollinator
Posts: 244
Location: Basque Country, Spain-42N lat-Köppen Cfb-Zone8b-1035mm/41" rain: 118mm/5" Dec., 48mm/2" July
74
purity personal care books cooking food preservation writing
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Not human, but animal hair... In the Basque Country our local heirloom sheep that is adapted to our climate is called the "latxa" sheep, and latxa is Basque for "scratchy," basically.

As you can imagine, it is not highly prized for making textiles. Years ago, it was used for making the famous Basque berets (with a lining), some traditional wool socks (best to put on something else underneath) and mattress stuffing. Now all of these uses have declined almost to extinction and the wool is a waste product.

This wool is legendary for its indestructability. It will not burn. You can leave it outside in a pile for many years and it will be unchanged. You can bury it, compost it, whatever you like, and it does not seem to be affected in the least.

I wonder if latxa wool, shredded or cut into short pieces so as not to kill a lot of wildlife, might do what William is asking and be a good soil-lightening amendment, i.e. a substitute for coconut coir or peat?
 
Posts: 327
Location: West Midlands UK (zone 8b) Rainfall 26"
50
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have seen for sale wool pellets designed as a slug repellent.  They are said to naturally break down and act as a fertiliser.  You can also buy wool compost which also contains bracken - two otherwise under-utilised products of the uplands marketed as a replacement for precious peat which is far better left where it is than pandering to urban appetites for pretty flowers.  It's likely to be from Herdwick sheep, the wool from which is so coarse it was pretty much only ever any good for carpets.  They sound like those Basque sheep.  

I also put hair trimmings in the compost and have never seen them again, but my eldest son at university, with very long hair, put all his combings out the window and by the end of the year there was a sort of mat on the ground.  Ugh.
 
Power corrupts. Absolute power xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx is kinda neat.
Heat your home with the twigs that naturally fall of the trees in your yard
http://woodheat.net
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!