Our heaviest woolens may be headed for summer storage, but another incarnation of wool is ready for duty in the garden. Introducing wool pellets from Wild Valley Farms.
Yes, you heard me, wool pellets.
We have wood pellets for stoves and food pellets for our guinea pigs, and now the same technology is being used to transform waste wool into pellets for the garden.
Foundation Flockers, stay tuned for a deep dive on other forms of wool in the garden, the nature of these nutrients, and how you can start your own pellet-making empire. Coming Friday!
Wool in the garden is not a novel idea. We've long known that it makes a fantastic fertilizer and weed barrier. Wool retains moisture, deters snails, and slowly releases nitrogen as it biodegrades. But instead of lumping it around the tops of our plants, which many of us already do, we can now put our wool directly into the soil.
An 8-ounce bag of Wild Valley Farms wool pellets retails for $10.99 (that's what I paid) and should cover about 15 square feet of soil or feed 6 gallons of soil. You'll want to mix one-half cup of pellets into each gallon of soil. You can also sprinkle the pellets around existing plants and tap into the soil.
If you're using these to repel snails, they advise you to "create a barricade of wool pellets around the plants." I love the idea of all these tiny pellets holding up signs that say "NO SNAILS!" and marching around vulnerable seedlings.
Commercial growers, you can also get a 22-pound bag of pellets for the princely sum of $135. But that'll fix an entire cubic yard of soil. Depending on what you're doing, this could be worth it.
A Raw Deal
During skirting (which happens immediately after shearing), a raw fleece is tossed onto a slatted skirting table. The short nubbins and less desirable bits—usually from around the belly and derrière, collectively called "bellies and tags"—get set aside and either dumped on someone's garden or sold for pennies, maybe dimes, per pound.
Bellies and tags are ripe with everything that was on the sheep at shearing. Normally we'd wash it all out. But in a garden environment, all that extra grease, suint, and manure can be beneficial. Just know that these pellets carry not a delicate eau d'ovine but the full-on fragrance of sheep. Once they've been discretely blended into your soil, you won't know they're there. But if you set them out in a bowl by the front door, visitors will notice.
These pellets are a 9-0-2 grade fertilizer. The guaranteed analysis is 9% water-insoluble nitrogen, 1% available phosphate, and 2% soluble potash. Wild Valley Farms claims that they will reduce watering by 25% while still keeping the porosity in your soil.
I used them in my pots last year, and the plants stayed plump and healthy even as the temps skyrocketed and the rain disappeared—proving once again that wool is a gift that keeps on giving.