Using Manure to Fertilize Your Garden

comments (3) July 30th, 2008

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Manure from barnyard animals can do wonders for your vegetable crops. Once youve found a source for animal manure, collect it, compost it, and spread it on your garden.
Manure from barnyard animals can do wonders for your vegetable crops. Once youve found a source for animal manure, collect it, compost it, and spread it on your garden.Click To Enlarge

Manure from barnyard animals can do wonders for your vegetable crops. Once you've found a source for animal manure, collect it, compost it, and spread it on your garden.

Photo: Ronald Lipking

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I first became acquainted with the wonders of manure when my wife and I bought a small farm years ago. Not long after we moved in, we also purchased a horse—and all that goes with owning a horse, including, of course, manure. Mucking out stalls was a job I put off as long as I could, until I planted our first garden at our new home. I spent the winter dumping loads of the stuff into what the previous owners had said was an organic garden spot. By spring I had covered the entire garden with several inches of manure. By fall I realized just how potent the manure was when I begged neighbors to p-l-e-a-s-e come down and pick some of the beans before they took over the stable. That was 10 years ago, and ever since, I have been experimenting with different types of manure.

Today I own a different “Old MacDonald” farm that includes virtually every animal in the children’s song—ducks, geese, cows, horses, goats, sheep—plus a few more, like pigeons and rabbits. But for all the variety, these wonderful creatures do have one thing in common—manure. Gardener’s gold.

Manure consists of three basic elements critical to plant health: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Nitrogen allows plants to produce the proteins needed to build living tissue for green stems, strong roots, and lots of leaves. Phosphorus helps move energy throughout the plant, especially import­ant in maturing plants. Potassium aids plants in adapting sugars needed in growth and is especially helpful in root crops. Together, these three elements form that magic formula, N-P-K, the backbone of all fertilizers, man-made or organic. Manure also contains ­large amounts of humus, a wonderful soil amendment. Humus is simply the bulky, fibrous material that comes from plant fibers and animal remains and is valuable in several ways: it gives better tilth to clay soils; supplies food for soil flora and fauna; preserves moisture during dry spells, while ensuring good drainage during wet times; and it is a storehouse for nitrogen in the soil. In short, humus acts like a reservoir, allowing nutrients to work.

Manure quality will vary from farm to farm and from time to time, depending a great deal upon the amount and type of bedding collected with it. Testing manure may be the only way to determine for sure what its nutrient content actually is. So, keep in mind that the references made here to nutrient levels in different kinds of manure serve as only a general guide.

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posted in: organic, fertilizer, animals

Comments (3)

JennyRF writes: I have a question about the safety of manure... We just built our raised beds at the beginning of April 2014. Once built we picked up a load of manure from my father-in-laws manure pile out in his field. We did take off a foot or two of the top layer of manure and get the stuff at the bottom of the pile. We then put a pile of it into each bed at the very bottom layer of the beds... Once the manure was put into the beds we then layered a 3-way compost/soil mix into the beds filling up the remaining space in the beds. I began reading about horse manure because I was struck with the thoughts of what if the manure was not all aged manure and some was fresh? What if it contains pathogens? What if we can get sick from it? Are these concerns something to continue to ponder about or do you think we are fine? I really would love some advice on this. This is our first gardening adventure and I was planning on putting in my seeds and some starts today...but thought I would think twice, before planting. We spent so many hours of work on those beds, but in the end as an afterthought I want to play it safe. Hope to hear from you soon. thank you.
Posted: 2:57 pm on April 21st
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Posted: 2:07 pm on December 14th
SMbalian writes: I live ins a big city in Bolivia. I have a roof terrace for doing laundry. I have gotten 5 gal. water bottles for free and have been using them as self watering pots. yesterday at market I found bags of sheep manure. remembering from my youthful days about how good that is I bought it. but I'm curious about how much to stick in a pot. Any ideas? and major Kudos to the artist on this page. the illustrations are delightful! I want to make some prints here for my office where I tutor little kids. I know this particular page was made 4 yrs ago now.....but to whomever...I enjoyed your way of writing also. 'gonna go browse some more to see what else I can learn in a up-beat way. Thanks, Sally
Posted: 3:57 pm on November 21st
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