The best manure for gardens is properly composted manure. It’s often called black gold, especially when it contains cow manure. When running a homestead, you have many different types of manure. Wonderful for us, all of the livestock manure can be used as fertilizer.
If you have livestock on your homestead, then you’re familiar with the abundance of manure. For some, dealing with the amount of manure can become a problem. Just think about it, with even a few animals on a small homestead, you can have up to a ton of manure in just one year! So the question is, what to do with all that waste?
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The number one way most of us use manure is to improve the fertility of the soil. Not only do we use it in the garden, but it’s also used in fruit orchards and container beds. The best manure for gardens can easily be made right on your homestead with proper composting.
I should straight off caution you on the use of fresh manure as a fertilizer. Fresh manure is also called “hot” manure. This means it can harm our kill plants.
My grandfather said he would only use cow manure straight from the barn to the garden. I think it was because of the low nitrogen levels in cow manure because of their four stomach system. This meant he could plow it under and it wouldn’t harm the plants. However, to avoid weeds and grasses being transferred to your soil, it’s best to compost manure to achieve the best manure for gardens.
The amount of time needed for proper composting of manure depends on the season because of the varying temperatures and moisture levels. You can add them to your existing compost bin of organic matter such as grass and leaves and appropriate kitchen scraps. Some farmers have a muck pile. They let it sit without adding it to their compost piles. When the manure stops producing heat and is not smelly when it’s dry, it’s ready for the garden.
The way I prefer to use manure in the garden, raised beds, and container beds is to overwinter it. This means spreading the manure over the garden spot you wish to fertilize, placing a mulch layer to cover it and letting it sit all winter. Come spring it’s ready for you to plant.
Whether your homestead has manure from cows, pigs, horses, poultry, sheep, goats, and/or rabbits, the manure is a gold mine for improving the quality of your soil. I am told that sheep, goat and rabbit manure is easier to compost and spread because of the pellet shapes of the poop. I haven’t raised sheep or rabbits, but I know goats are abundant makers of nice roundish pellets!
I’m originally from an area where commercial chicken houses were abundant. Many non-organic farmers would spread the chicken manure as fertilizer in their fields. I wouldn’t do this as I am an organic homesteader and I know you can’t spread uncomposted chicken manure in the garden. The high nitrogen and ammonia levels can burn plant roots.
Be aware, if you are an organic gardener and you get your manure from a source other than your homestead, be sure you know what the farmer fed his animals. Manure from an animal fed non-organic feed will contaminate your organic garden. If you’re not an organic gardener, many farmers will be happy to allow you get all the manure you can carry from them.
Composting chicken manure provides rich, nitrogen-laden compost. This is especially great for those areas of your garden where you will plant heavy nitrogen feeders like corn or popcorn. Since chickens create a lot of manure, they provide a free fertilizer for the homesteader.
When we clean out the barn or coops, we add it to the vermiposting bins (composting with worms). Using worms for composting is one of the best decisions we have made for the health of our garden soil. They are especially beneficial in preparing horse manure for gardens. Of the many things we have added to our vermiposting bin, we have found they love horse manure better than most other things.
There are a few things to be cautious of when adding manure to your garden.
1) Don’t use dog or cat manure in your garden. While you may think this should be common sense, it needs to be said because of the high risk of diseases being transferred to humans from the feces of dogs and cats.
2) Although some people use human manure and urine in their garden, after composting, of course, you should never use sewage sludge from treatment plants as fertilizer in your garden unless you have tested it for contaminations.
3) Remember not to use fresh manure in your garden while you have live plants in there. The high nitrogen and ammonia levels can kill your plants at the root. While cow manure won’t burn anything, you can get weeds and grasses transferred to your soil and these will grow when nothing else will!
4) NEVER use manure from a sick or diseased animal. Not even composting it, remove it from your homestead to prevent the spread of disease or sickness.
Do you have a tip for using manure in the garden or in composting? What is the best manure for gardens that you use? Be sure to share with us in the comments.
Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack