I have a choice of either cow or horse manure that I will have to shovel myself. Which is better for my veggie garden? I won't put it on until the fall, so it can sit over the winter. Which would you use?
Any farm animal manure is ok, if and only if, it is either well composted with good carbon sources ("browns"), or just use without mixing with "browns", as long as the poop is well rotted and well aged (i.e. 6-12 months old)
Do I have to compost it even if I let it sit over the winter?
No. You can add the manure right to your garden in the Fall. It can decompose in your garden all winter just fine, but it would work better to make a big pile and compost it down. I cover mine with a big piece of black plastic weighted down with rocks or bricks, so it will stay moist and hold in the heat. You want the heat to kill weed & grass seeds, spores and fungus that can harm your seedlings. By spring, it will be nicely "cooked" down & ready. Spread it around in your garden and till it into the soil.
I apply wood ashes in the Fall and Winter, and composted manure in Spring.
Rabbit manure can be added right into your garden, even fresh and it will not burn. It is the best fertilizer I have ever used and the hay adds tilth to the soil so it holds moisture.
Good stuff, Maynard!
Horses don't digest their feed as well as cows,so seeds often pass through intact.
I spread horse manure in the fall,leave on the surface,and usually get a cover crop of oats,barley and the occasional corn sprout.Seldom weeds.
If I could get cow manure,I'd use it too.
I can tell you from experience that if you don't compost to kill weed seeds in the manure you are in for a big surprise next spring. Not a pleasant surprise either. better invest in a good tiller and hoe.
And I can tell you from experience that if you don't feed your horses weeds, they won't be passing any weed seeds! I've used and spread a lot of horse manure in my life and never had a weed problem. Grew up on a farm with two teams of working horses. They had the best and cleanest hay for fuel and that's where we got the manure for a monster garden. I spread pure horse manure on my gardens wherever extra nitrogen is needed. 2" of fresh horse manure has been worked into the onion and garlic areas. The horses that supply it are fed clean and good-quality hay, not weeds. Garbage in, garbage out! Dollars in, dollars out.
The difference since Martin was growing up is that a) most horses don't work anymore and b) most horses are bedded in pine shavings rather than hay or straw.
So horse "manure" is overwhelmingly likely to be primarily shavings, albiet well soaked in horse-piss. Composted in a good size pile for a couple years it can still be a good amendment. Sooner than that and it would be a disaster for light soil (as I know from experience). You might get away with it in heavy soil, I don't know. I've used it to good effect as a mulch.
Cow manure is generally mostly crap with some hay, usually no shavings. Well-rotted it would be well worth the considerable effort of shoveling, IME. Fresh it's so wet and heavy as to be not worth moving very far.
Ksfarmer has a point.If yuou don't know what went in then you're at a loss for expectations.But to me,weeds are just another organic material.
The horse manure I get is from over bred,high dollar,pampered horse that don't graze in weedy fields.
You can't get work horse manure,here.It's a farmer resource.But no smart farmer feeds low octane to a worker.
Bedding runs the gamut.Straw,shavings,sawdust.The latter is so fine it breaks down from the urine rapidly,and I've never had a problem from nitrogen depletion when incorporated.
But it would be impossible to say what anyone is going to get,unseen.IMO,don't see how you'd be worse off using stable bedding vs. nothing.
The use of wood products for horse bedding now is even better than 50-60 years ago when we used straw. With straw, there was always a chance of some quack grass or thistle. That chance is negated by the use of wood waste or sand. Although weed seeds may pass through a horse without being digested, many of the so-called weed problems came from the bedding, not the horse. I know what is going into the front end of horses where I get the manure. Therefore I know what comes out the other end. What isn't used by me and some U of WI fields ends up on a 5,000-plant garlic field where plowing and planting follows immediately. Haven't seen any exotic weeds since we've been using fresh manure. Didn't see any where it was used for mulch on the vegetable gardens, either!
Martin, havn't I seen you railing against the use of wood-chips? Wood-chips, shavings, dust, it's all the same - even soaked in urine - just a question of how much time to break down.
Again, I think it's largely a question of soil type. One can put a lot more less broken-down 'browns' into heavy soil without adverse effect.
No you haven't seen me railing against the use of wood chips as horse bedding. The only important thing that woods chips have in this thread is that there are no weed seeds in the use of such material when used as bedding. The time that it takes to break down, either in the ground or in a compost pile, has no bearing whatsoever in the choice of cow or horse manure by the person who started this thread. The type of bedding used DOES have a bearing on the later claim that horse manure is automatically loaded with weed seeds!
This a a great discussion by many voices of experience, thanks. I am learning a lot on just this thread alone. Back to what sweetannie said about covering the pile with plastic. I have a good source of horse manure and I am making a few big piles mixed with wood chips from old branches and bark, and just recently started adding a good amount of used coffee grounds. In the summer heat I would have to water the piles a lot to keep them from drying out, so I have been covering them with old tarps. My question is when the rains come, should I keep the piles covered to keep them from getting too wet? This material will become the bullk of a new garden area in the spring.
Hey islandbound, I am also that, and also garden in glacial till - although sounds like mine is sandier and yours is more gravelly. Either way, fertility is terrible and it's way too porous.
You will want to be very careful about what you incorporate into the soil. Try to use only very broken-down manure and compost. Basically humus. Everything else can and should go on top. I try to keep the ground covered all the time - even if just with cardboard or newspapers or pulled weeds - the difference between some cover and bare ground is very dramatic in our soil type. Horse-bedding, seaweed, hay, straw, old futons, you name it I've used it.
One of the benefits to super-light soil is that pulling weeds is very easy - I don't worry much about hayseeds or other introduction of weed-seed from mulches.
Cow manure has NPK ratio of .6-.2-.5
Horse manure is .7-.3-.6
Thanks for the feedback, pnbrown. I do wonder about the pourous nature of our ground, I have set up one rainwater catchment 2500 gal tank for the garden area, as water is a precious resource on this island, probably yours too.
Another question to anyone, when a neighbor heard I was stockpiling horse poop, he cautioned me regarding the salt-lick factor where the horses are kept. Seems like that would be such a trace amount that it would not be a problem, but....this is my first experiment with horse manure, are salt licks a concrern with either horse or cow manure?
Actually we have excellent groundwater reserves here, and rainfall is high (and seems to be trending higher). So far pumping has never been close to exceeding the annual re-charge.
here's a question for pnbrown and alphonse (or others) as you two seem to know a lot about horse manure that has wood shavings as bedding.
we got 100 tons of "free composted horse manure" from a rich people's horse boarding facility. i took it without thinking about the bedding and now am wondering about the nitrogen suck that the bedding may cause if we spread it on our fields. our fields definitely need NPK according to soil samples and past low yields (we grow non-certified organic veggies).
i got the manure tested at the UW lab and here are the basic results:
C:N = 47:1
N = 13.09 lb/ton
P = 8.72 lb/ton
K = 15.99 lb/ton
sulfur = 1.90 lb/ton
what do you think about using this for fertilizer this season?
i understand how the nitrogen is tied up in the decomposition, but am confused about determining if this will occur and to what extent. do i look at the C:N ratio?
it's 1 year old and is extremely hot starting at about 6" into the pile. there are very few visible manure pieces and it almost looks/feels like mulch for landscaping.
long message, but we're in a bit of a bind about this.
i just swipe up all the animals manure, roll it around in coffee, pound it like dough for 120-180 minutes, set it on fir, sit on it for 15 minutes until it cools, then rub it all on my face and make a face mask. on my hed.
Chicken manure is the best to use out of farm animals. If you are really worried about compost for vegetable gardens and are willing to go the extra inch, there are vermicompost bins and worms available on the internet(http://www.unclejimswormfarm.com and etc.), and some bait shops have the most common compost worm (the red wiggler) for sale as bait mainly for trout fishing.
All this talk of soil, it dose not matter, because manure /compost will help your soil no matter what class it falls in.
For nitrogen rabbit, then hen, then horse & steer are even at 0.7.
For Phosphate rabbit & duck are even at 1.4,hen is next, then steer & horse at 0.3.
For Potash sheep, then horse & rabbit at 0.6, steer at 0.4.
For compost ,organic matter or humus all are the same. I would get all I could haul, no matter what kind of manure it is.
Pine straw in horse stables, that is a new one on me.
Here we use wood chips or wheat straw, that including the horse that ran in the Carlina Cup each year.
We use pine straw for mulching, composting & as tinder for camp fires.
We have a Pearland newsletter that comes in every 2 months and a nearby equestrian center had a posting about selling bagged and bulk horse manure. They say the compost starts with good quality feed consumed by healthy horses. Daily stall cleaning mixes the manure with pine shavings used as bedding. Thay also claim that the pile has been collected over 5 years.
Last year I added chicken, sheep and goat manure to my raised beds and had excellent results. I want to try doing the horse manure this year.
Should I or Shouldn't I ? I can just get so bogged down making this decision :( Please help me make this decision.