A Quick and Dirty Guide to Using Manure in Your Garden

Manure is one of the richest sources of fertilizer. It can be a great way to amend the soil in your garden. The trick to using manure is to use the right type, be aware of safety concerns, and use it at the right time.

Using Manure Safely

Fresh manure should never be used near edible plants because it’s rich in bacteria and nitrogen. Manure should be aged to kill the pathogens. This process takes 6 to 12 months for the manure to age into a powdery material that’s dry but still nutrient-rich with no smell.

You should also wait 120 days after applying any manure before harvesting edible crops. Don’t use manure from pigs, cats, dogs, or other humans because the manure likely contains dangerous pathogens that can infect humans.

How to Use Manure

Manure should be mixed thoroughly into the soil, not thrown on top. The most effective way to apply it is mixing it with a quality compost. Than it’s best to work it into the top 4 inches of the soil with a tiller.

Fresh manure should be applied in the fall so that it has time to compost before spring. Aged manure can be applied in the early spring before the growing season. You can check out our review of the best tillers here.

Where to Find Manure

There are several sources of quality manure. One option is packaged manure, which you can get in a bag from a local feed or in some gardening/home improvement stores. Just make sure it’s fully composted and pathogen-free.

Many gardeners, however, choose to buy manure locally at a farm. This option gives you the best control over any herbicides or pesticides in the manure as the farm will know what has been used to make it.

Using Manure in Your Garden

Choosing Quality Manure

When selecting manure for your garden, remember that not all manures are created equally. For example, what the animals ate affects manure quality. The more grass the animal eats, the lower the amount of nitrogen in their manure.

Some manure, especially from large herbivores like cows, has the perfect ratio of carbon to nitrogen (25:1). So you won’t over-fertilize and “burn” your plants. This is called “cool” manure as opposed to “hot” manure from pigs. This type has so much nitrogen and needs to be composted with leaves and other carbon-rich sources.

You’ll also want to know what else is in the manure. It’s not uncommon for herbicides to be found in manure that can kill your plants. Ask the manure supplier if the animals fed on grass treated with weed killers or other chemicals or check the bag if buying from a store.

While manure is an excellent soil amendment, make sure you regularly test your garden soil to avoid a buildup of phosphorus. You will also need to follow necessary safety steps to reduce the health risks of using manure for a garden with edible plants. Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to having a happy healthy garden.


Guidelines for Using Animal Manures and Manure-Based Composts in the Garden

Get a Load of Our Manure Guide


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