The Benefits Of Manure Compost In Your Garden
By: Nikki Tilley, Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden
Using manure compost in the garden has numerous benefits. Manure is packed with nutrients that plants need, like nitrogen. Using manure as fertilizer keeps plants healthy and green.
How Manure Effects the Soil
In order to maximize the benefits of manure compost in the garden, proper application is vital. One of the best ways to use manure as plant fertilizer is by mixing it in with compost. Composting manure eliminates the possibility of burning the plants.
Another option is to till it into the soil prior to spring planting, such as during fall or winter. Generally, fall is the best time to use manure in the garden. This allows plenty of time for the manure to break down, eliminating the threat of burning plants in the garden. Well-aged manure on its own also makes a great fertilizer for garden plants.
Nearly any kind of manure can be used, depending on where you live, as some manure is more readily available than others. However, it is not recommended that anyone use cat or dog manure. These types of manures are unsuitable for the garden or the compost pile, as these are likely to carry parasites.
Generally, horse, cow, and chicken manure are the most commonly used for manure fertilizer. Some people also use sheep and rabbit manure. While most types of manure can be purchased from garden centers, oftentimes, you can find farmers or horse owners that are more than happy to give it away.
The Effects of Manure on the Soil
The effects of manure on the soil are beneficial as well. As the soil absorbs manure, nutrients are released. This enriches the soil, which in turn helps the plants. The most important benefit of using manure in the garden is its ability to condition the soil For instance, mixing manure with sandy soils helps to retain moisture levels. Adding manure to compacted soil helps loosen the soil. Manure produces increased soil carbon, which is an important source of energy that makes nutrients available to plants. Other benefits of manure include reduced runoff and leaching of nitrates in the soil.
Using Composted Manure as Mulch
Did you know that using composted manure as mulch is also beneficial? Because manure is considered a slow-release plant fertilizer, it provides small amounts of nutrients over an extended period. This makes it an acceptable form of mulch for plants. However, make certain it is not fresh manure. Fresh manure is too strong for plants, as it contains excessive amounts of nitrogen, which can burn the plants. In addition, some manure fertilizer consists of urine as well, which is also high in nitrogen. Too much nitrogen on plants can be detrimental for them.
The benefits of manure as plant fertilizer and the effects of manure on the soil makes its use in the garden worth consideration.
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Read more about Composting Manures
Is Goat Manure Good for Fertilizer?
A few years ago, the only kinds of manure readily available were cow and horse manure – but not anymore. Keeping goats is a hot trend in urban farming. You might have a neighbor with goats or even keep goats yourself. Along with a steady supply of creamy milk for cheese comes a steady supply of fertilizer for your garden. Goat manure is one of the best animal manures for healthy soil and plants.
Goat manure makes for a great fertilizer in home gardens, as it contains nitrogen and potassium, both of which plants need to grow healthy and strong.
Using Manure as Fertilizer for Gardens
Fertilizer is a combination of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium used to add nutrients to soil and plants. Fertilizing increases the quality and quantity of a plant’s production.
Processed fertilizers usually come in either liquid or granular form. But the oldest form of fertilizer comes in pellet or pie form. Rabbit, and cow, that is. Chicken, sheep and horse manure fertilizer can also be used with great success.
But before you start scouring the countryside for farms that can supply you with a load of, let’s say… crap, there are a few things you need to know to make your garden the envy of even ‘Mary the Contrary’.
1. All manure fertilizer is not created equal. Untreated manure is really nothing more than a pile of poop. It can be used in its ‘purest form’, but weed seeds and pathogens can be present. Look for dry “aged” manure, or compost the fresh stuff yourself for several months before using.
2. The primary benefit from manure for gardens is nitrogen. Ranking them in order from highest to lowest in nitrogen content would go something like this: rabbit, chicken and sheep (tied), horse and cow. Other factors that contribute to the amount of nitrogen in the soil include urine concentration, the type of feed the animals were fed and the amount of forage and/or bedding mixed in with the manure.
3. Adding manure to the soil boosts the soils aeration. The better the aeration (or ventilation) of the soil the better it absorbs water and nutrients.
As was briefly mentioned above, rabbit, sheep and poultry have the highest levels of nitrogen. Rabbit droppings also contain high levels of phosphorus which helps to produce exceptional blooming flowers both in quality and quantity. And unlike other forms of manure, fresh rabbit droppings have no foul odor.
OK, so now that you know the whys and wherefores of using manure for fertilizer, you need to know where to find it. After all, when’s the last time you saw sheep poop or chicken litter in your local garden center?
Here are a few possible resources to find manure for gardens:
1. Your county extension office will be able to direct you to local farmers who would be happy to help you out.
2. The local 4-H Club leaders can give you contact information for children who have animal projects.
3. Contact your state’s department of agriculture to see if they have a value-added agriculture program. If so, there will be a group of farmers who are processing the manure from their livestock for sale.
4. Visit your local farmer’s markets and get to know the vendors. They can help you out as well.
When applying manure to your garden’s soil, it’s very important to work it into the soil. For large areas you will most likely want to use a garden tiller to do so. For small areas, using a shovel and pitchfork will do the trick (and give you a work-out, as well). If you do use fresh manure, spread it in the fall to avoid ‘burning’ or over-feeding the plants and to allow any pathogens present to die.
If you’re using dried manure, you can work it into the soil at the end of the growing season or a few weeks before planting without fear of over-feeding. NOTE: Greater amounts of manure will be used the first year, with decreasing amounts the following years. This is because a) the organic matter in the manure improves the quality of the soil and b) some nutrients are carried over from year to year.
When it’s all said and done, manure fertilizer is an economical, efficient and reliable source of organic fertilizer for both flowers and vegetables. Happy gardening!
Judy Wilson says
Thanks for posting these different places where I can find some manure. Asking about the value-added agriculture program in my state seems like a great idea. It seems that there would be farmers who would process and sell manure, so that would be a great source to look into.
How Do You Add Manure to Potting Soil?
Adding manure to potting soil is as simple as it sounds.
Figure out how much total soil you need. Then add one part manure to four pots soil. Mix everything up with a trowel and you’re good to go.
Creating Potting Mix from Scratch
Now, if you want to create your very own potting mix with manure, there’s a bit more work involved.
Start by gathering your materials. You will need one part manure, one part vermiculite, one part coarse sand, and two parts of dry topsoil.
In a large container or wheelbarrow, sift the manure. By this point, the curing process is over and the manure is ready to go. However, the screening will get rid of any manure that did not decompose properly. It’ll also get rid of any stray twigs or debris.
You can use a piece of steel wire. It doesn’t have to be perfect. The goal is to just get rid of large chunks that could ruin the texture of your potting mix.
After sifting, you can add the coarse sand and vermiculite. Then, restore your sifting apparatus and take care of the topsoil. Get rid of any debris from the topsoil so that your mix is nice and uniform.
Using a shovel or gloved hand, give all of the ingredients a good mix. You should have a nutrient-rich DIY potting mix that’s ready for plants.
Adding Fresh Manure
Cured manure is a must-have if you plan on adding plants right away.
However, you can use fresh manure to prepare the soil for the future. This is a common practice among farmers. Many will incorporate manure into the soil during the fall months.
This gives the manure ample time to cure over the winter. The ammonia will dissipate and leave behind all of the good stuff.
Just add the manure to the soil and mix it up evenly. Then, let the potting soil sit until next spring.
How to make green compost – tips
As you prepare to use this technique, follow these tips for sowing green manure :
- The first thing will obviously be to choose where we will do it. It is about taking advantage of empty spaces in the orchard or garden, which then we think to take advantage of to cultivate something of interest.
- It is also important, of course, to take into account the sowing season . However, here we have much greater freedom than when sowing normal crops, since the green manure only has to grow: it is important that the plant dries before flowering . This is because legumes and other species accumulate nutrients that they later deplete during flowering. Therefore, as soon as it begins to appear, we will mow our green manure crop . It is also possible to plant species that cannot withstand the cold in autumn, so that they dry out naturally when temperatures drop.
- Simply spread the seeds of your chosen green manure crop over the area to be enriched. Spread them more densely than usual, since you want the plant cover to be dense, and then cover the seeds with soil or a little compost.
- When the crop has grown and its flowering is near, follow it and crush the remains . Do not pull out the roots, which must remain in the ground to degrade naturally. Afterwards, you can simply leave the shredded remains on the ground or stir it slightly so that they deteriorate sooner. Both methods are equally valid.