Please Explain the Protocol for Using Horse Manure on Roses

Desertgarden- Las Vegas, Z8b @ 2800 ft.June 12, 2014


There are numerous horse properties not too far from where I live. I have contemplated acquiring horse manure from their stables to use on my roses next year. My questions are:

1. I have always heard it needs to be well rotted or aged prior to use on roses? What is the best method of storage and the optimal time frame for aging in a mild winter climate?

2. Mulch is supposed to be kept away from rose canes. How should the manure be used and is it a top dressing only?

3. Are there any issues I should be on alert for regarding the quality of the manure?

Thank you in advance.


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nikthegreek(9b/10a E of Athens, Greece)

A few things I can tell you is that any manure should be kept away from canes and that it is a good idea to apply manure or compost before you apply mulch. Also applying manure at the bottom of a planting hole is a well established practice when planting any plant. If the roots will not be in contact with the manure for some time, not fully composted manure can be used. Of course any manure in direct contact with the roots should be properly composted. Usual practice for composting manure over here is letting it rest for a few months under cover protected from direct sun and rain. I am not familiar with horse manure properties (it's a sheep, goat and chicken manure country here) so I'll let others comment on that.

This post was edited by nikthegreek on Thu, Jun 12, 14 at 6:51

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 6:11AM
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Another thing is to find out when the horses were wormed, as worming medication will also kill your precious earthworms apparently. It takes a few months to break down and become safe for use on gardens.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 6:49AM
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comtessedelacouche (10b S.Australia: hotdryMedclimate)

Not an expert on this, but I understand horse manure in particular tends to contain lots of weed seeds, due to the horsey digestive system not processing them. So these seeds will come up as weeds all over the place. There may be a way of sterilising them during the composting/maturation of the manure, perhaps someone more knowledgeable can tell us? I would also like to know if the manure can be left in the plastic bags or sacks it comes in, to mature. We have lots of it available round where I live too, but have hesitated to use it because of all the warnings.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 3:16PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

We have for years gotten horse manure from a local stable. They helpfully bag it in big plastic bags. Put it on the roses, water it in well, and mulch over it, and the roses grow like mad.

Dean Reynolds Hole used it that way -- as a surface-dressing, about 2 inches deep. It still works.

YMMV. :-)

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 4:13PM
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I have both horses and cattle and Comtesse is manure = weeds. I often have squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. coming up in my flower beds, in addition to the weeds, since we toss culled vegetables from our garden into the pasture for the livestock. As long as you don't mind pulling weeds, it is great for the flowers. Best if aged for at least a few months, but as Nik said, you can use fresher manure if no contact with roots. You should be sure to ask about the hay supply, as well as, the dewormer. There are certain herbicides that some use on their hay that is still potent enough to kill roses after passing through livestock. Frontline and Banish are two of the most common commercial names for the herbicide that contaminates manure. Google contaminated manure and prepare to be scared. Unbelievable that the herbicide is legal to use on hay grown for feed.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 4:34PM
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Desertgarden- Las Vegas, Z8b @ 2800 ft.

Thank you for the information:). I considered this previously, posted a question but could not find the thread.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 4:42PM
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I have horses and roses and manure. I wouldn't call it "protocol" but I'm happy to tell you about what I do and what I know.

Most "manure" you get from a stable is actually stall leavings, so a combination of poop, some sort of bedding material, some urine, and maybe some left over bits of hay. The quality of the compost will depend on what the farm uses for bedding material, how they store if after it's taken from the stalls and what they've fed their horses.

Typical bedding is pine shavings (good) pelleted pine (better) pelleted straw (best.) However, all types of things can be used like peat, paper, corn husks, peanut shells etc. but those things tend to be regional. Shavings which are probably the most popular can take months to break down and still may be seen in the compost. A few stables add lime to the stall floors for odor control and that could effect your pH.

Most of us are just wanting the stall waste to "go away" as quickly as possible with as little effort as possible. I have more than I could ever use and my piles get extremely hot (which wastes nitrogen, and can be too hot for some beneficial bacteria) but I can reduce a a pile by half in under a month not even turning it. The point is if you want to be a nerd about exactly what in term of NPK you're putting on your roses just know that farmers don't compost to maximize those things, so I wouldn't put much faith in "research" that says what the fertilizing properties are.

In terms of what the horses are fed you have things like "wormers" that kill internal parasites. I've looked into this before and this doesn't kill earthworms. I might hesitate if the stable manager was feeding a daily feed through wormer, but these are no longer recommended by vets and should be phasing out. My horses are only wormed 1-2X a year.

In terms of other drugs I would tell you this: I use less than 100 grams of drugs per horse annually and then I compost as much as 10 TONS per horse annually. With that ratio, I just don't worry about it.

The other concern as to what the horses are eating would be the possibility they are eating forage (hay or grass) that has been treated with a type of herbicide called pyridine carboxylic acids (these would be seen as aminopyralid, clopyralid, fluroxypry, picloram, and triclopyr.) These take a couple years to break down in the compost and will damage/kill tender plants. (Think tomato, beans, peas etc. I'm not sure what they would do to roses.) The overwhelming majority of forage that is treated with herbicide in this country is treated with 2,4-D that is ok.

Most stable managers won't know what was put on their hay, BUT you would not use this type of herbicide on a legume hay (alfalfa, clover.) A stable manager will know what kind of hay their horses eat. If you are nervous call your county/state extension agent/agriculture dept. and ask how prevalent this problem is in your area--it tends to be regional. If you are still worried you can take some of the compost and try to grow something in it, and you'll know for sure in a couple weeks. See google.

I've used it "well rotted", partly composted and fresh from the back end and I've never had an issue. If it is at all fresh I do try to keep it from touching the canes. I tend to prefer in partly composted because unless the compost has been covered (doubtful) by the time you get to "well rotted" I would suspect a lot of the nutrients have been leached away by rain. (At least here where I get 45"+ of rain a year!) I've not had any problems at all with weeds.

Typically I'll dig in several inches of compost when I'm creating a new bed and let it sit for a couple months. After that I use it 2-3 times a year as a top dressing over the whole bed 2"-3" thick. Sometimes I'll put a couple of inches of pine park fines mulch over it and sometimes I don't bother--depends on how finished I want things to look or if winter is coming.

Things you might want to ask a stable manager:
.What kind of bedding do you use.
. Do you know what herbicides might have been used? (Most will not know.)
. Do your horses eat hay with alfalfa or clover in it? (This they should know.)
. Do you use lime for in the stalls for oder control?
.How often do you worm your horses? Daily?
.Are your stall floor impervious/rubber mats or concrete? (More urine/nitrogen in compost)
.Are you careful to properly dispose of sharps/needles?
.How old is it? And does it get rained on?

Hope this helps. If you want to know more about the herbicide issue there is plenty available with a google search. It is something to consider, but I personally, wouldn't get too worked up about it...

This post was edited by subk3 on Thu, Jun 12, 14 at 23:04

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 11:02PM
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Desertgarden- Las Vegas, Z8b @ 2800 ft.


Thank you for taking the time to impart such valuable information.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 1:20AM
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Put it on the garden Monday or Tuesday so the smell goes by the weekend when neighbors are likely to be outside smelling the breeze as it passes through your garden and into their open windows. I used to mulch on the weekend and got so many complaints and now when I do it early in the week everyone is happier except a few people who walk the dog and don't like the smell as they pass.

Horse manure = happy roses

The very best free rose food you can get

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 5:47PM
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Yes indeed. We have a hilarious family story about Dad getting a load of chicken manure and Mom subsequently going to a bridge party. You can guess the rest.


    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 11:49PM
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Any horse lover will tell you that horse manure smells good! Almost anyone else will say that it's no worse than what you clean out of your lawn mower. Chicken manure, on the other hand, is a different story!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 4:31AM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

A pitch fork works better than a shovel

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 10:45AM
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Horse manure smells?

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 12:16PM
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nikthegreek(9b/10a E of Athens, Greece)

As far as manures go, you can't get any smellier than pig's manure. Once smelled never forgotten!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 12:28AM
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If you get it from a stable and let it sit you should leave it be until it doesn't smell at all. Then all that folderol about keeping it away from the stems and stink and weed seeds and burning roots and e-coli and worm medicine will be moot.

Top dressing isn't mulch. Manure isn't mulch. Wait until it becomes composted enough to smell like earth, not turds or ammonia, and then treat it like any other compost.

The OP is in Vegas. Annual rainfall there is FOUR inches, making most of the guidelines from the wetlanders not appropriate.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 12:49AM
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comtessedelacouche (10b S.Australia: hotdryMedclimate)

Not the OP, but very appreciative of all this knowledge-sharing. The horse properties around here all just bag up their poo/stable clearings(?) and leave it by the roadside to be picked up by anyone who wants it. They usually charge $2 - $3 per bag, on an honesty basis. These are large plastic bags or some sort of plastic-y closely-woven sack. What I'd like to know is, can you leave it in these closed bags to rot, or does it need to be open to the air in order to rot down most effectively, i.e. to process out the nasties, in the same way that kitchen/garden compost needs air to work? I'd prefer to leave it in the bags to contain the pong since I only have a small garden, all close to the house. Anyone have an opinion on this?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 1:35AM
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Campanula UK Z8

Unless you are totally certain of the provenance of the horse feed (hay) avoid like the plague. Any herbicides which contain amypyralid, trichlopyr (which is nearly all broad-leaf ones), to raise forage for animals, will have a lasting and ineradicable effect on crops - do not use horse manure.This has been a scandal in the UK for the last few years - hardly any of us would dream of using horse manure unless it is from our own horses and they have been fed with hay we have grown ourselves......which, in the UK, is barely any of us.
Thank you, Pat-Bama, for bringing this up , I have been banging on about this at (tedious) length having lost an entire season of crops to contaminated manure.....and I would never consider using that council free green waste either since dodgy herbicides are now in every lawn-based weedkiller. The herbicides pass through the gut of the horse, not breaking down, and distorts and wrecks any crop grown using it.....and I would not risk it near my roses either.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 8:42AM
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Desertgarden- Las Vegas, Z8b @ 2800 ft.

This has become a very informative and funny thread. I've decide to stay away from the horse manure. It seems that if you have good knowledge of the stable/horse's diet etc. Protocol, good manure is beneficial. I do not personally know anyone who owns horses and would be ambivalent about questioning the people who own horse properties somewhat near where I live about their practices. I would feel like I was looking a gift horse in the mouth...or somewhere else....I wouldn't trust using the manure without knowing.

I guess I will be waiting for it to be bagged up on the side of the road, like one poster wrote about, but it would have to have a label on it. Until then, I will continue Using cow manure with mulch on top of it, as it is more aesthetically and olfactory pleasing, plus it keeps the pigeons out of it.


This post was edited by desertgarden561 on Fri, Jun 27, 14 at 12:06

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 11:59AM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

Lynn. Not sure where your cow manure comes from. But doubt they are feeding them better feed than stabled horses

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 12:08PM
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Desertgarden- Las Vegas, Z8b @ 2800 ft.


I purchase steer manure from a local nursery. It has a label on it but I do not have any on hand to regurgitate the free from information found on it. I've used this product over a decade and have had good luck with it thus far.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 1:00PM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

Lynn. Makes no difference to me what you choose to use. Just was noting that prized horses are often treated better than cattle But I am sure there are well fed cattle out there too. And the roses will love what ever you pick.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 3:30PM
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Desertgarden- Las Vegas, Z8b @ 2800 ft.


I would suspect that prized horses are treated better than some cattle, unless it is a prized cow that wins ribbons at a county fair; if such a thing even exists. (Think the scenario may have come from a movie).... But truth/fiction....The point is, I don't know what the horses are used for, they may or may not be prized , BUT, I am ambivalent about questioning people. While I do not mind getting my hands dirty here and there, I am a "city girl" growing roses, and in no way a cattle, horse, or even a manure expert. That is why I posed the question seeking guidance from members WHO ARE. Based upon the sage advice I have received, and my situation, my choice is to continue purchasing the steer manure that is labeled to be free of many of the un desirable things and call it a day for now. Given a more comfortable opportunity to acquire horse manure, after this thread, I feel somewhat comfortable in at least knowing what to be on the look out for, which is relative to my OP.


This post was edited by desertgarden561 on Fri, Jun 27, 14 at 17:41

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 5:40PM
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