By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)
Horse manure is a good source of nutrients and a popular addition to many home gardens. Composting horse manure can help your compost pile become super charged. Let’s look at how to use horse manure as fertilizer and in the compost pile.
Is Horse Manure Good Fertilizer?
Readily available in many rural areas or through reputable suppliers, horse manure makes a suitable and inexpensive fertilizer for plants. Horse manure can give new plants a jump start while providing essential nutrients for continual growth. It contains adequate amounts of organic matter and can be applied in various ways. It’s also slightly higher in nutritional value than cow or steer manure.
How Do I Use Horse Manure as Fertilizer?
Fresh manure should not be used on plants to prevent the possibility of burning their roots. However, well-aged manure, or that which has been allowed to dry over winter, can be worked into the soil without the worry of burning.
While it may be more nutritional, horse manure may also contain more weed seeds. For this reason, it is usually better to use composted horse manure in the garden. The heat produced from composting can effectively kill most of these seeds as well as any harmful bacteria that may be present.
Composted horse manure can also be used in the garden any time of the year. Simply toss it over the garden area and work it into the soil.
Horse Manure Compost
Composting horse manure is not any different than traditional composting methods. This process does not require any special tools or structures. In fact, small amounts of horse manure can be easily composted using a shovel or pitchfork.
In addition, a simple, free-standing pile can be easily turned into compost. While adding additional organic materials to the pile can create a more nutritional fertilizer, it is not always necessary. Adding just enough water to keep the pile moist while turning it at least once a day can produce optimal results as well. Frequent turning helps to speed up the composting process. Covering the pile with a tarp can help keep it relatively dry, but still moist enough to work with, as well as retain necessary heat.
There is no set ideal time for how long to compost horse manure, but typically it takes 2-3 months if done properly. You are better off looking at the compost itself to see if it is ready. The horse manure compost will look like soil and will have lost its “manure” smell when ready.
Although it’s not required, composted horse manure can provide better results in the garden. Soil aeration and drainage can be greatly improved, which ultimately results in the healthier growth of plants.