How Best To Utilize Manure In The Garden


wheelbarrow full of straw

I’m a gardener, and I’ve used manure to raise bountiful crops of vegetables and luxurious flowers over the years, and so have numerous other farmers and gardeners. When used properly, manure is the best possible fertilizer to use in any garden.

To maximize the benefits of using manure in your garden, make sure that you use mainly mature manure, as fresh manure may shock young plants. Compost the manure for at least six months to a year. Prep the garden by loosening the soil and removing debris before spreading the mature manure into soil at a 2-inch depth and loosely mix it with the soil.

Need to know more about how to use manure to make any garden thrive? Please read on.

Benefits from the Positive Characteristics of Manure

Manure is organic material that has passed through animals’ digestive systems. It’s superior to store-bought fertilizer because it doesn’t degrade the soil or the environment. Manure is loaded with vital nutrients and is safe to use in the garden at almost any time.

Mature manure will aerate and fertilize, creating nutritious soil with good drainage, perfect for garden plants.

It increases the number of humus levels in soil and thus improves its structure. The garden, as a result, will drain well and will be ready for planting.

Solid and liquid manure are equally beneficial to plants. Choose whichever one is more convenient.

The main elements in manure that can be of benefit to your garden

huge pile of farmyard manure

The main elements in manure are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. All three are crucial to the building of solid, supple plant structures.

One micro-nutrient found in manure is calcium, a vital element for developing cell walls. Sulfur is the cause of the unpleasant odor of fresh manure, but it compensates for its drawbacks by aiding the formation of chlorophyll. Magnesium is a key component in the chlorophyll molecule, the green pigment in the chloroplast.

Magnesium and calcium together also provide a liming effect. This helps give a better PH balance to naturally acidic soil.

Adding manure to the garden with all these important nutrients and attributes will help correct any soil deficiencies.

How to utilize manure in your garden for the best results

A garden well-fertilized with manure provides everything necessary to grow healthy flower and vegetable gardens, exactly what we want for our garden. Below are the ways to maximize the usage of manure for a spectacular garden, as well as tips and tricks:

Prepare your manure beforehand before placing it in your garden

Begin at the end of the previous growing season by composting fresh manure. Dedicate a corner of the garden to a small manure compost pile. Add dead leaves and other organic material, especially if the garden features clay soil.

The denser the clay, the more composted vegetation must be added to the manure. The garden will need it all in the spring.

Prep and Plant the Garden Properly

Good garden preparation in the spring is vital for the production of the desired bounty in the fall. Understanding good soil and what it needs to foster plant growth is essential to successful gardening.

Substances that make the soil fertile would be sand, silt, clay, and the partially decomposed organic matter in soil referred to as humus.

Too much clay in the soil keeps water away from the plants. Sandy soil is porous. It can’t hold much water, but what water does drain through is available to the roots. Silt lies halfway between clays and sands.

Having porous soil is crucial. Those holes permit gases from the atmosphere to enter and oxidize organic material, making it useable by the plants. A good PH balance between acids and alkaline is also crucial. It permits plants to have ready access to dissolved nutrients in the water.

How to use the manure in your garden

To avoid drawing flies with compost: Dig trenches in an area near the garden, lay in manure, cover with dug-up soil.

When prep time approaches, dig up the compost. Stir the manure and soil together for use in the garden.

I always begin in the spring by testing my garden soil for PH balance and nutrition. I take samples from 20 different areas. The test itself costs only about $20. After testing, I use the appropriate composted manure to correct any problems.

Timing manure depends on the garden’s location, shade, soil texture and consistency, the average date when plants germinate in the region, and average temperature and precipitation ranges. Consult a master gardener for specific information and guidance.

How to obtain manure for your garden

gloved hands of chicken manure pellets

Obtain suitable manure by raising farm animals or striking a deal with a neighboring farmer or rancher. They are often willing to give it away. Purchase bags of composted manure at the local gardening shop.

Some considerations when using manure in the garden

I would not use fresh manure in the garden. It may “burn” plant seeds and young plants with too much nitrogen.

Non-composted manure may include unwanted seeds that will sprout weeds. Material may not have broken down sufficiently to allow plants’ roots easy access to manure’s valuable nutrients. Composting breaks down solid components into nutrients. It also breaks down potentially dangerous pathogens. Fresh manure may also have an unwanted odor. There is one exception, which I’ll address later.

Manure testing can be looked into for your garden

Test the manure for maturity: does it pass through fingers and hands freely, or is it sticky? If it passes through, it’s mature enough.

Check the pile for color. If manure turns black and begins to look like soil, use it. Also, check the smell. Once it’s gone, the manure is good to go.

Putting the manure into the garden

Prep the garden by loosening soil, removing debris, and spreading mature manure into soil at a 2-inch depth. When finished, the manure should remain visible.

Begin seeding by digging a hole, mixing manure slightly with the surrounding soil, and planting seeds. Cover lightly and water the seeds. Seeping water will help break down the manure content, permitting the newly emergent plants to “feed” easily.

Use the Varieties of Manure in the Garden Effectively

compost bin and wheelbarrow of vegetable scraps

Each type of manure has its distinct advantages and disadvantages for use in the garden. But some types should never be used.

Types of manure that can be used in your garden and their benefits

Below are the comparisons as well as the benefits and drawbacks for different types of manure.

Type of manureTheir benefits and what they can doTheir drawbacks
Vegetable manureThis type of manure was created through vegetable compost. It is good because they never passed through animals. The process of making good vegetable manure, however, takes a year.
Horse manureHorse manure decomposes best by broadcasting the compost area into a 4- to 6-inch pile.
The result is excellent manure for any garden. It contains the ideal balance of nutrients for plant growth.
It must never be used raw and should be broken up into bits. Pile them into the compost for at least 6 months.
Composted cow manureThis type is best applied in spring. Cow manure also includes healthy bacteria that help plants grow. These bacteria further break down nutrients, making them more accessible to roots.
Chicken manureChicken manure should be left in a compost pile for a year before use. If it smells, it’s not ready for use.
The benefits are many with the high nitrogen content. Best applied in spring and fall after composting.
Its high nitrogen content can burn young plants. It cannot be used for flowers or other acid-loving plants. It will trigger excess leaf production at the expense of flowers.
Sheep manureUsed best for mulching once plants have sprouted. It comes in pellet form, allowing it to be used after a much shorter composting time.
It has a lot of nitrogen. It’s also higher in phosphorus and potassium than most other forms of manure. With its low amount of odor, it makes excellent topdressing.
Pig manure Pig manure is usable, but only if it’s well composted for several months to a year.
Turn the compost every four weeks. It’ll give a well-balanced blend of nutrients to your plants.
Fresh pig manure contains a large number of pathogens.
Rabbit manureIt has four times the amount of nutrients of other forms of manure.
It’s also twice as rich as chicken manure.

Horse manure, in particular, is very chunky and contains a lot of weed seeds. After breaking it to bits, mix it with dead leaves.

One good ratio for using horse manure is 3 parts leaves, 1 part manure, and till it into clay soil.

As for composted cow manure, it should be applied at a 6- to 9-inch depth while preparing the garden bed. Make sure it’s well mixed with the soil. The nutrients found in this manure are generally 3 parts nitrogen, 2 parts phosphorus, and 1 part potassium.

Many cows are fed a high-protein diet, which creates a more liquid manure that is easier to spray on fields.

Charles Duhigg

Something to look into, especially if you are trying to grow rice in rice paddies within your garden, comparing swine manure and composted cow manure shows that the latter promotes microbial activity and soil fertility (source). It also promoted better crop yield as compared to those applied with swine manure.

Types of manure that should never be used in your garden

Never use dog, cat, or any kind of carnivore manure in your garden, as they all contain dangerous pathogens. Also, never use human manure as they contain drugs and pathogens.

Top-dress and Mulch your garden with Manure

close up os soil and greens

Later in the growing season, if plants look unhealthy, it may be necessary to topdress them. Add more manure around the base of each plant. Water them. The water will help break down the manure, releasing nutrients into the roots. Do not topdress unless the plants show signs of a slowdown.

  • Top-dress single plants if the other plants look healthy.
  • Use the most crumbly, dry, mature manure available as a mulch over the garden. Rainstorms will permit the nutrients to seep into every plant.
  • Test liquid manure on the garden. It takes effect faster than the solid variety. Find out which kind works best by dividing up the garden and recording which type is used in each plot. Midsummer is an excellent time to conduct such experiments as plants undergo their growth spurt.

For gardeners who’ve only used commercial fertilizer in the past, manure will turn out to be a fascinating experience.

Go ahead. Try it. Compare and contrast this year’s results with last year’s. Learn what a difference well-applied manure can make to any garden’s flowers and vegetables.

The Exception to the Rule on Fresh Manure in your garden

I live in a temperate climate. As such, I find manure compost doesn’t readily break down during our hard winters. So, I tried a different strategy. I added fresh horse manure to the garden after removing the remains of all annual plants in the fall.

I then used the spade to mix it in with soil. I figured some composting would occur, but not enough before the first hard frost. So, I waited a few weeks and remixed the manure and soil.

Now, I had what was essentially a thin layer of compost spread over the entire garden. For gardens with a lot of clay, add dead leaves to the manure before mixing. In the next spring, I mixed the “compost” again after the thaw began, but before the weather got warm enough for planting.

The result? A garden well-prepared with excellent manure compost.

Conclusion on utilizing manure in the garden

Utilizing manure, especially if you too foster animals in your farm, is a great way to utilize a product while making your garden benefit from it. The process may take time, seeing that most manure must be composted for a period of time, but the rewards and benefits your garden receives from it are great.

This is also one way of refraining from using commercial fertilizer and saving your money. Hopefully, this article has given you insight into just how beneficial using manure is for your garden, and you might want to try it yourself.

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter, and professional gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

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