Hair can enhance a garden’s health

August 28, 2019

In the heat of summer it seems everything grows faster. Even the hair on your head grows 10 to 15 percent faster in summer, because during cold weather blood goes to internal organs to keep the body warm, and with less blood going to the scalp, hair grows slower.

Hair is one of the fastest-growing cells in our body, which is why chemotherapy causes hair to fall out, because chemotherapy attacks fast-growing cells such as cancer.

Human and pet hair can be useful in the garden, where it will break down and release nutrients into the soil. Because every strand of hair contains traces of up to 14 different elements, including gold, it can supply trace minerals to your plants. Hair breaks down slowly, and may take up to two years to decompose, so think of it as a long-term fertilizer.

Of course, hair is not a complete fertilizer, so it might be better as just one of the ingredients in your compost pile. Probably the best way to use hair is as a mulch. Because of its structure, hair lets water into the soil at the same time it blocks evaporation, keeping in the soil moisture. Like all mulches, hair also keeps the soil cooler. A hair mulch is very effective at controlling weeds, which cannot penetrate the mulch.

Human hair is often effective in discouraging deer. Because hair breaks down slowly over several years, by simply digging hair into the soil, you can improve soil structure and form tiny air pockets that allow roots to grow in hard or compacted soils.

Hair that is treated with dyes, permanents or other chemicals is best used on ornamentals such as flowers and shrubs rather than on food crops, as there is a chance the chemicals could infect the soil and pass on to the food.

Besides your own hair clippings, you can often obtain free bags of hair from barbershops and pet groomers. If you constantly vacuum up pet hair, just empty your vacuum cleaner bag right into the compost heap.

Whether it is human hair or pet hair, it will break down eventually, and keep the garden soil lighter and let your plants grow better. A single hair has a lifespan of two to seven years, and the hair of an eyelash has a lifespan of just 150 days.

Since we lose up to 100 hairs each day, your entire head of hair replaces itself about every four years. Don't let this go to waste, but use it as mulch or a long-term fertilizer. You may not notice the difference in your plants right away, but they will be slightly greener and healthier – maybe just by a hair.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter