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Hair as garden fertilizer

 
Eric Hanson
gardener
Posts: 2957
Location: Southern Illinois
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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
 
Timothy Markus
pollinator
Posts: 945
Location: New Brunswick, Canada
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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.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 6663
Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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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
 
Meg Mitchell
pollinator
Posts: 204
Location: Gulf Islands, Canada
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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.
 
Aaron Tusmith
pollinator
Posts: 162
Location: Western Idaho
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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.
 
G Freden
pollinator
Posts: 543
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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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.  
 
Raytoe Nagy
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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: 204
Location: Gulf Islands, Canada
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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.
 
William Bronson
gardener
Posts: 3061
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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I wonder if hair could be used as a coconut coir or peat moss substitute...
 
Dave de Basque
pollinator
Posts: 255
Location: Basque Country, Spain-43N lat-Köppen Cfb-Zone8b-1035mm/41" rain: 118mm/5" Dec., 48mm/2" July
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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?
 
Hester Winterbourne
Posts: 384
Location: West Midlands UK (zone 8b) Rainfall 26"
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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.
 
Kc Simmons
gardener
Posts: 551
Location: Central Texas
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I raise Angoras & other wool breeds in my show rabbit herd, and almost always use the wool in the garden after seasonal clipping since I'm not a proficient spinner, yet, and end up with a few wheelbarrow loads of clipped wool every 3 months.
I've found it works well as mulch, in compost, and to keep soil from coming out the bottom of pots. I've recently started using it in my buried hugels as a nitrogen source, and because it holds water like a sponge.
I also use it for nesting box material for my poultry (Angora rabbit wool is the warmest natural fiber).
It definitely does break down (eventually)... But more slowly than other organic materials. It seems to break down more quickly when it's mixed with wood chips mulch, manure, or compost. Of course, rabbit wool is different in texture/density than human hair, so I don't know how that may impact the ability for it to break down.
 
s. lowe
pollinator
Posts: 733
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I have a friend who runs a small herd of sheep and goats she uses for fiber arts stuff. She regularly uses scrap/waste fiber as mulch in her garden. She puts most straw and wood chips on top as they come available. It doesn't seem to build up in her soil and her veggies bump so there's another data point
 
Tereza Okava
gardener
Posts: 1606
Location: South of Capricorn
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nearly three years ago in January, my daughter and her boyfriend both shaved their heads. They put the hair in my garden but apparently didn`t bury it deep enough, or maybe even just spread it around, because to this day I am finding clumps of long hair. I always put dog hair and other random hair (hairballs, from sweeping the floor, lint from the washing machine, etc) into my organic trash, which goes into bokashi and then gets buried, and I never see it again, but this hair is still kicking around. (when I find it, I bury it.) I see people on youtube using large amounts of hair or feathers, but it seems to be overwintered under mulch or a tarp.
 
Kc Simmons
gardener
Posts: 551
Location: Central Texas
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I've recently been using wool/hair as a "screen" around the compost cage in my keyhole project in an effort to keep the sandy soil from falling through the openings and filling the cage before I get the compost built up. (https://permies.com/t/130581/permaculture-projects/Sunken-Raised-Hugel-Keyhole-Lasagna)
In my observations I've noticed that the hair at the bottom has already broken down quite a bit after only a few weeks. I assume this is due, in part, to the rabbit manure I used in filling the bed, as well as the high moisture level in the bottom of the bed/cage. While the bed isn't "hot," I would think the nitrogen in the manure, combined with the wool, shredded leaves, and woody bits, has allowed it to warm up a little; especially on the days I pour the contents of the urine jug over the hair.
Since the wool I use on the surface of the garden, as mulch, tends to go months before breaking down, maybe it's the combo of the moisture and the heat that is the key to getting it to compost quickly?

I also put some balled up rabbit wool in the worm bins a few days ago to see how it does as bedding/food. The worms seem to love laying their cocoons in balls of long-fibered sphagnum, so I'm curious to see if they'll do the same with the wool balls.
 
Jura Rafal
Posts: 27
Location: Planet Earth, Europe, Upper Silesia
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As far As I can remember from my 20-years-ago-classes the hair creatinine has a strong propensity for absorbing heavy metals due to tiol group pesence  ( te -SH group
with excellent chelating properties).
Thus their concentration in hair can  be as much as 50 times higher  than in blood and urine.

 
This tiny ad is suggesting that maybe she should go play in traffic.
BWB second printing, pre-order dealio maybe (poor man's poll)
https://permies.com/t/147624/BWB-printing-pre-order-dealio
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