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ARgardener April 29, 2017 06:45 PM

Fish Heads- worth it?
Gardening in virign soil this year so I plan on spicing things up in my tomatoes' holes to help them out.
I've seen some mention of putting a fish head under the planting hole. I've also seen where putting rabbit manure into the hole is good, too.

Is this an either-or deal? Should I be putting either rabbit poo or fish heads; not both?
I've got a source for both, so both is possible, but what is the best route to go?

dmforcier April 29, 2017 07:07 PM

Fish head is supposed to be good, but bury deep or someone will dig it up - along with your plant - and eat it.

With a fish head, I would just use rabbit pellets for top dressing.

pmcgrady April 29, 2017 07:51 PM

If I have access to small crappie/bluegill or fish guts, I use them...
I can see a big improvement in peppers, and somewhat in tomatoes.

upcountrygirl April 30, 2017 04:46 PM is right. Most especially if you have raccoons in your area and also coyotes as weird as that sounds. I have tried the fish heads. The raccoons dug up the plants the first night. A friend who didn't have a raccoon problem did the same. When the fish heads started decomposing the coyotes came digging. He caught them on the game camera.

You can use rabbit poo straight on any garden crop... as far as I know and I know I still have LOTS to learn it's the only manure that doesn't require composting.

oakley April 30, 2017 05:59 PM

I had critters dig up a simple scoop of TomatoTone last year. Just lost a few plants.
Had back-ups.
Prepping a bed a year ahead works. I would not do it in freshly planted seedlings if
night critters are around.
During fishing season a few years ago i dug a 20 ft trench and added fish bodies just
after filleting. Covered with fresh kelp, then covered over. Re-peat over the season
a couple feet at a time. I covered it in September and planned to use that bed the next
season but ended up just planting sunflowers lacking the time.

That front set of beds had potatoes for years, probably since the house was built around
the 1880's. Fish and kelp was always the side dressing. Free.
The previous owner of our home was a commercial fisherman.

I have a good hand meat grinder at that home and should use it for smaller Caplin.
Just getting a bit in your compost pile deep is good. Let that pile go at least a year.
If it is free, use it. Cod are enormous, the size of a cary-on luggage most are. So i
trenched deep. That Summer i think our tally was just over 200. :?:

ARgardener April 30, 2017 06:29 PM

We don't have the critters you guys mentioned. We don't live too far out and our fenced yard has coonhounds and German shepherds on patrol

brownrexx April 30, 2017 07:12 PM

Skunks would dig up the fish heads in my garden.

oakley April 30, 2017 07:30 PM

I would go for it...just not every seedling. All about insurance and testing, taking chances....

ARgardener April 30, 2017 07:41 PM

Like I said, we really aren't in a critter zone. Also, would burying a foot down not be enough to keep away critters in the first place? I also imagine the fencing tomato cages would act as some kind of barrier too.

dmforcier April 30, 2017 08:14 PM

Do you know why people are buried "6 feet under"? It's because at least 6' of dirt is required to hide the smell from opportunistic beasties.

Might as well try it. The worst that could happen is you discover critters you didn't even know about.

Hey, I got an idea. Dig your holes and prepare, including the fish guts, but don't plant in them yet. Leave a few days to see what happens.

ARgardener April 30, 2017 08:31 PM

[QUOTE=dmforcier;635805]Do you know why people are buried "6 feet under"? It's because at least 6' of dirt is required to hide the smell from opportunistic beasties.

Might as well try it. The worst that could happen is you discover critters you didn't even know about.

Hey, I got an idea. Dig your holes and prepare, including the fish guts, but don't plant in them yet. Leave a few days to see what happens.[/QUOTE]

Good idea with the letting them sit a night or two.

LOL- The six foot under saying is from the Plague times... They were paranoid about the dead spreading disease. In some states, the coffin only has to be 18" below the surface:yes:

Nematode May 1, 2017 11:02 AM

Organic gardener friend took me in his field, there is a 3' stretch in one row where the taters are lush and taller than the surrounds. One salmon rack has improved that spot for years. Its not all about the first year with fish racks.

greenthumbomaha May 1, 2017 11:12 AM

Native American garden tradition :

Bury a fish head, say a prayer, harvest!

- Lisa

SteveP May 1, 2017 12:07 PM

I have some 30 gal containers and I buried some crappie carcasses and guts about 1/2 way down about 5 weeks before planting this year. I planted 2 tomato plants in each containers and they are exploding with growth. During the 5 weeks, nothing got in to the planters and messed with the fish. We have a 6' privacy fence around our backyard so that would have kept the coyotes at bay. Which I have seen a few running around.

ARgardener May 2, 2017 01:44 AM

Alright I'm off to hunt fish parts tomorrow! Fingers crossed I can get some :)

Would fish be suitable to place under any non-root crop ?? Peppers? Cucumber? Eggplant? Squash?

I say no to putting it under beans.

ARgardener May 2, 2017 11:01 PM

Got 2 big bucket fulls of giant river fish heads.. spent the afternoons hacking through the heads with a reciprocating saw, an ax, and a machete. Let's just say brain, blood, and guts were flying everywhere (including all over me).

Since I'm not using [I]full[/I] heads, should I supplement with a dab of rabbit poo?

dmforcier May 3, 2017 01:07 AM

Full heads, part heads? What's the difference?

ARgardener May 3, 2017 01:28 AM

[QUOTE=dmforcier;636593]Full heads, part heads? What's the difference?[/QUOTE]

Well, just the amount of fish in the hole!:twisted:

Worth1 May 3, 2017 07:28 AM

One word of caution.
It was suggested you bury some and wait a few days to see what happens and then plant.
Do you really want to dig where a rotten fish head is?:))
I cant even put out Fish fertilizer or plant tone without critters digging up the place.:lol:


jmsieglaff May 4, 2017 02:10 PM


MissS May 4, 2017 03:17 PM


Very good. Thank you!

bower May 7, 2017 10:39 AM

When I do fish heads or guts, I prefer to do it all the one day, whether planting or leaving for a season. Digging 'a few days later' is more likely to bring the smell to the top, and then there will be digging!
Basic precautions that help:
- Dig your trench first with a clean shovel - a foot deep
- Add the fish and use the clean shovel to cover with a couple inches of the clean (unmixed with guts!) soil
- Plant as usual and fill it up with the untainted soil using the clean tools.
- Tamp down well, water and then put some big rocks on top, around /between the plants
- Whatever implements touched the fish hose it off and your bucket too, somewhere furthest away from where the fish is actually buried. Pour it on and hose it into the ground, where you don't care if they dig. Not that you're trying to leave a smelly spot either which would encourage animals to explore - if it's hot dig a hole for your discarded fish wash water. Use soap if you like too.;)

If you are careful enough that there's nothing smelly near the surface, you will outwit the critters. Using rocks around plants and watering them in also hedges your bets against any smell escaping through loose soil, or any animal being tempted to explore the soft fresh dirt.

Rocks are good enough to keep away cats, it's easy to make them too heavy and uninviting bare soil. Coyotes and foxes are the most determined diggers, I have seen them unearth boulders to get at fish below.:shock: That is when I buried some fish in the fall - I guess they located it still decaying in spring and were hungry and determined enough. But I have succeeded at least partly with fish here and there in the perennial garden, even with a fox around they didn't get more than a few.

Patrol dogs should keep away critters, but don't forget... they are diggers too! :)

JRinPA May 9, 2017 01:19 AM

I have put a lot of carp in the garden over the years. Most are 3-10 lb ea. Generally, I'll turn up trenches where the upcoming tomato rows will be, about 12" deep. Any deeper and it gets annoying with backsliding fill. Then, lay in the carp end to end so there are overlaps but no gaps. I don't gut them or anything except try to cut them in two with the shovel when they are in the trench. Then I sprinkle with lime, backfill the dirt, and mark the rows so I can plant right over it come time. Some years I do this a couple months ahead, some years I do it in Sept/Oct. Never had a problem with animals. I trench my tomatoes, so I don't dig down to the fish when I plant. The plants take right off, of course. About the only evidence found when I turn an area over again are big scales and the big gill plate bones.

I would not be afraid to put panfish heads or guts right in a planting hole - it should help the plant throughout the season. However, it does sound like a risk to do it in May right under a transplant if you have a lot of critters traversing your yard.

ARgardener December 22, 2018 01:12 AM

This year i put 1-2 entire bream in each hole... Seems to work great. The vigor of my tomato plants was untouched by any of my local gardening friends :yes:

Raiquee December 23, 2018 05:18 PM

I hear fish heads and guts are great for brassicas too!! I got a small freezer dedicated to frozen fish pieces for next years broccoli!!!

bjbebs December 23, 2018 06:46 PM

I fish a lot. All remains go into the garden. If fish are cleaned at a fish cleaning station on the water the remains go home in a covered 5 gallon bucket. If others are at the station I will also take theirs. These are only used in the garden at plant out or to side dress. No such thing as too much, just bury deep. Too much trouble using in containers. Critters do dig up on occasion but just cover again. Nothing breaks down faster than fish and all plants love it.

rhines81 December 23, 2018 08:09 PM

I don't use the heads (I even de-head panfish) ... everything else, yes.

wildcat62 December 24, 2018 09:54 AM

As much as I fish (A lot) I can't use them. There would be no controlling the racoons if I tried to make use of the scraps. Last year was the worst year yet for coons here on our farm. I'm at my whits end on what to try next. When I was younger there was a lot more coon hunters in this area but our farm is apparently overrun with them now. It's all out war now & nothing seems to work for long. I should start a thread on what I can do to dissuade them from stealing/damaging/eating everything we work for.

carolyn137 December 24, 2018 08:18 PM


Some say yes, some say no as can be seen in the link above. I thought the no reasons were very interesting.:)

Carolyn, who prefers cutting off the head,then cooking and eating the whole gutted fish, especially trout,not the big ones like whales.;)

salix December 25, 2018 02:35 AM

Bears have a very keen (possibly the best) sense of smell. Have learned my lesson not to do that even 2 feet deep basically using "Bower's rules" in the autumn when they are desperately eating everything they can find...

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