Best Manure for Your Garden. Best Manure for Vegetable Garden.
For centuries, garden soil was improved by adding the manure of livestock. Manure from commonly kept livestock was added to the soil and used to grow vegetables.
Even with the creation of fertilizers and bagged soil amendments, manure is still considered an excellent way to improve your garden. Keep reading to learn the about the best manure for your garden.
What is manure?
Before we get any further, let’s talk about what manure actually is.
Manure is a fancy term for describing the poop from herbivores. Manure is often used in gardens and to amend, or improve, soils. It’s a nicer way of talking about poop. 🙂
Many types of livestock are herbivores and eat plant material. When they eat the plants, their digestive system breaks down the plants into nutrients. Most of these nutrients are used by the animal’s body, but not all of them are used before the animal excretes them.
This means that many of those broken down nutrients are still present in the manure. These nutrients are what makes manure valuable in the garden.
Is manure good for gardens?
If used properly, manure is excellent for your garden. Manure often contains high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which are three macronutrients that plants need to thrive. There are also smaller amounts of micronutrients present in manure.
Not only does manure provide valuable nutrients to the soil, but it also provides organic matter for your garden. Organic matter can help the soil hold the right amount of water and break up hardened clay soils.
Using manure properly is key to making sure that it helps your garden and doesn’t harm it.
Which animal poop is the best to put in your garden?
There isn’t a ‘best’ type of manure to put into your garden. The ‘best’ type of manure will depend on your soil and the types of plants that you’re growing. All plants have different nutritional needs and some types of manure are better suited to growing certain plants.
With that being said, manure from livestock that are herbivores are the best to use. Cows, horses, sheep, goats, rabbits, llamas, and alpacas produce some of the best manure for your garden. Chickens also produce manure that is well-suited for your garden, even though they aren’t herbivores.
Manure from rabbits, llamas and alpacas tend to be nearly weed-free. Manure from cows, horses, sheep and goats can have weed or grass seeds in it, which can lead to more weeds growing in your garden. If you compost it properly, most of these weed seeds will die though.
Although chickens do eat seeds, their poop has very few seeds in it. The gizzard breaks down seeds effectively in chickens, nearly eliminating whole seeds that make it through their digestive tract an into their poop.
I wouldn’t use manure from pigs, cats, dogs or people. Manure from them contains bacteria that can make you seriously sick if it’s present in the soil where you’re growing vegetables.
How much manure should you put in your garden?
This really depends. The type of manure that you’re using is going to determine how much you should add to your garden. If you’re using a bagged manure that you bought from a garden center, the bag should tell you how much to apply. The manure has been tested for nutrient content so the company can give you a recommendation for how much to use.
If you’re getting manure from your livestock or a neighbor’s livestock, it’s a little harder to gauge how much manure to apply.
For a general rule, the following chart outlines how much manure you should add to a typical garden:
How to use manure in the garden is going to depend on the soil that is in your garden. It’s a good idea to get your soil tested, or test it yourself with a soil test kit. This will give you an idea of the nutrients that are present in your soil.
Soil test kits are really simple to use. You can purchase soil test kits nearly anywhere and I promise you, they’re much easier to use than you probably think. You can complete a basic soil sample that checks pH, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in less than half an hour.
Here are my favorite soil test kits:
If you wind up putting too much manure into the garden, you’ll see toxicities or delays in your crops. Nitrogen, one of the main nutrients found in manure, increases vegetative, or leafy, growth. Crops that produce fruits, like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons or berries, may have a delay in the time that they put on fruit.
The excess nitrogen will cause the plant to grow larger, but produce less fruits.
Over time, adding manure to the garden can lead to excessive amounts of salts or disproportionate amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. It’s a good idea to check your soil annually with a soil test kit to make sure that the nutrients are well-balanced in your garden soil.
When to Put Manure in Your Garden
Knowing when to put manure in your garden is more important than choosing which type of manure to put in your garden. So, if you only get one thing from this article, make sure it’s this section!
Some manure is considered ‘hot’. Manure that is ‘hot’ is rich in nutrients. The main three nutrients in manure are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. In the right amount, these nutrients can boost your plant’s growth. It’s also important to think about the forms of nutrients in the manure.
There are different forms of nitrogen. Some types of nitrogen the plant can use right away, other types of nitrogen the plant can’t use. Some forms of nitrogen will burn the roots of your plants, which is why they are considered hot.
In order to avoid burning your roots, you can either put the manure out with enough time for the nutrients to break down into a form that isn’t hot or you can use a type of manure that isn’t hot to begin with.
If you have access to a type of manure that is hot, don’t avoid using it just because it’s hot. You just need to plan ahead so that it has time to break down.
One of the safest ways to add manure to your garden is to add it to your garden in the fall. This gives the manure time to break down. Not only will this help reduce the odor of the manure, but it will help to kill any weed or grass seeds in the manure, break down nutrients into a usable form and kill any bacteria that may be in it.
Handling Animal Manure
It’s important to handle manure safely. Most animal manure contains at least small amounts of bacteria that can be harmful, like Salmonella or E. Coli. So if you’re handling fresh manure, be sure that you either wear gloves or try to avoid getting the manure on your face.
Manure that gets onto your hands or arms can be washed away with soap and water. Just avoid handling manure and then going straight inside to fix yourself a sandwich. Make sure you wash your hands first.
You also want to handle manure in a way that is safe for your crops. Remember when I said that fresh manure can be hot? If you add fresh manure to crops that grow in the ground or at ground level, you could cause them damage. You could also put potentially harmful bacteria onto those crops.
For example, if you’re growing lettuce and you put fresh manure into the soil around the plants, Salmonella and E. Coli could get onto the lettuce leaves from touching the soil. The manure could also burn the leaves if it’s hot manure.
Root crops can be affected the same way. Carrots can become twisted and misshapen while potatoes can develop scabby spots.
Plants that develop crops further away from the soil are less likely to be hurt by hot manure. Corn and tomatoes don’t come into contact with the soil directly and are less likely to have problems caused by hot manure if the plant is in good shape.
Composting Animal Manure
It’s a good idea to compost animal manure before you put it in your garden soil. I don’t mean that you have to use a composter or anything like that if you don’t have one. Simply allowing your animal manure to age is usually sufficient to reduce the amount of bacteria in the manure and start breaking down some of the nutrients in the manure.
You can let your manure age directly on your garden soil. This is the easiest method that I’ve found to compost manure.
In the summer, we plant a huge garden. Our fall garden is much smaller, so we don’t utilize the entire garden space. Over the fall and winter, we add manure to the unused spaces of the garden in large piles.
The piles are left to age over the winter and early spring. When we get ready to till up the garden in late spring, we spread the aged manure around and use the tiller to work it into the garden.
Aging the manure helps to kill any potential weed and grass seeds also. Once the manure is spread out, I like to wait a few days to see if any grass or weeds try to grow. If they do, you can spray them with Round-up or another herbicide spray. Wait to plant your crops or seeds. The waiting period for planting after spraying with an herbicide is usually only 1-3 days. I would much rather wait 1-3 days to plant than to deal with mass amounts of weeds in the garden!
If you’re aging your manure, let it age for at least 4 months. If you can make a hot compost pile, you may be able to get by with 3 months. The longer you can let it age though, the safer and better quality it will be. 6 months is ideal for aging manure.
I’m not a fan of going out and turning a compost pile though, so I prefer to just let it sit and age itself right on top of my garden soil where all I have to do it spread it out in a few months and work it into the soil.
Don’t have access to fresh or aged animal manure? Here are a few places to check for cheap or potentially free manure:
- local horse stable
- dairy farm
- poultry farm
- petting zoos
- garden centers
You can even purchase bagged manure. It’s more expensive than finding a local source, but it does have its benefits. Bagged manure is usually tested for nutrient amounts, so you’ll have a more accurate idea of the nutrients you’re adding to the soil. It’s also aged so that it doesn’t smell as bad and is ready to put straight on your garden.
Here are some of my favorite bagged manures to put in the garden:
Are there vegetables that don’t like manure?
If you think about using manure as a type of fertilizer or soil amendment, it’s hard to imagine that any crops wouldn’t want additional nutrients. However, manure is better suited to add to some crops than others.
Root crops can easily become damaged by manure, but this is usually the case when the manure is either too fresh or the soil is too rich already. Root crops will become misshapen, crooked or forked. You really want to test your soil before using manure around crops like potatoes, carrots, turnips, radishes, parsnips or onions just to be on the safe side.
Most crops will grow better when you add manure to the soil.
Manure not only adds valuable nutrients, but it improves the quality of the soil by adding organic matter. Soils that are composed of hard clay will loosen up with manure while soils with a lot of sandy will hold water better when manure is added.
Manure to Avoid
The best types of manure to add to your garden soil are those from herbivores and from chickens. Don’t use manure from pigs, dogs, cats or humans. (Some people are all about composting human manure and putting it in the garden… I know in an extreme situation… like on MARS, this might be your only option…. but it’s not that serious. Just go get cow manure…)
There are a few reasons that you don’t want to use manure from pigs, dogs, cats and humans. For one thing, the nutrients in these manures aren’t the same as the nutrients from herbivores. Also, there is a much higher risk that you’ll be putting harmful bacteria and parasites into your soil that can’t be destroyed by composting.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not put manure into the garden that has internal parasites or microorganisms that can make me or my family sick. The bugs found in dog, cat, pig and human manure is much more likely to make you sick than the stuff found in livestock manure.
Even with composting, much of this manure can be dangerous. It’s best to avoid it all together. Again, just go get cow manure. It’s not that serious.