There are plenty of people who will tell you that spreading fresh cow manure in the garden will make everything grow. They are right, it will. You will hear about how it will improve the soil structure. The microorganisms will benefit from the vast range of nutrients that cow manure contains.
You only have to look at the grass that grows around a cow-pat in a field, to see that there’s plenty there for plants to use. The question should be: is it wise to put fresh cow manure in your garden?
Cow manure will help with drainage but, at the same time, allow some water-retention. It will open up clay soil and it will attract and retain a strong worm population. The worms are probably the most significant factor here.
There are all of these advantages that come with applying fresh cow manure but there are a couple of down-sides.
None of the advantages of spreading fresh cow manure in the garden will last. The organic material that is cow manure will break down. The worms will convert all that they can, into worm casts. The whole mass, which may look a lot when you spread it, will disappear without any trace.
There will be the residual effect of having the finest broken down particles that the worms leave behind and this will enhance the soil. The point here being, that what will look like a dramatic loading-in of a lot of heavy and bulky-material, will actually disappear.
It will be good while it lasts but when it’s gone it’s gone.
Looking at putting fresh cow manure on your garden
There is another problem when applying fresh cow manure to soil. Fresh manure, of any type, will decompose. If you are spreading cow manure that has a significant amount of straw-material in it, the straw element will break down on or in the soil and release nitrogen while this is happening.
There is nothing harmful about nitrogen being released into the atmosphere. This is something that happens all over the planet, all the time. It’s the reason why the atmosphere is made up of approximately 80% nitrogen.
In a garden, where we want to grow anything, we need to hold onto as much of the available nitrates as we can. Nitrates in soil have a value. Rotting organic material will use it in the decomposition phase, removing it from the soil. This is a reason for not applying fresh dung on plants that need all the nitrates that they can get.
This may or may not be a problem to you. But it’s something that you need to bare in mind if you’ve been presented with a bounty of fresh cow manure.
Do I need manure in my garden?
It’s not an absolute requirement that you put manure in your garden. It’s possible to keep a garden without ever applying manure of any kind. To get the benefit of manure, you need to apply it regularly or once every two or three years.
Many gardeners yearn for manure but may not be able to secure a supply. This is one of the frustrations that a gardener may have to live with.
If you have heavy clay soil, introducing a load of manure would open up the soil and attract the worms. If you can’t get hold of any manure, then there are alternatives. Using compost is an ideal substitute for manure, some say that it can be better than manure. The problem with compost that’s generated from a single domestic output is that the volumes can be small.
To get a larger quantity of organic material, try to secure a supply of lawn clippings. If you don’t have much grass of your own, then think about cutting grass for someone else and negotiate for the use of the clippings.
Add plenty of imported grass clippings to plenty of dead leaves, when they are available. Make compost from this mix and you may find that this will be a good-enough substitute for manure.
About putting fresh cow manure in the garden
Should I put manure in my garden in the fall? The Autumn time is by far the best time to add manure. This is important if you are planning on adding manure where you intend to grow food crops.
The manure will breakdown over the winter months. Worms will work their way through it. The worm action will effectively ‘clean’ the manure of any potentially harmful pathogens. You may find that, in your district, it’s a requirement to allow at least 120 days between adding manure to soil in your garden and harvesting any edible crops.
Adding manure to garden soil in the Autumn period will allow enough time for the manure to release nutrients, these mainly being potash and phosphate. When the Spring-growing period arrives, the sown seeds will have a readily available supply of most of the nutrients that they need, sitting in the soil, enabling your young plants to grow on through the growing season.
How much cow manure should I add to my garden?
Can you put too much manure in your garden? It’s possible to put too much manure in one place. I’ve seen where this has happened. Plants that have access to too much of a good thing tend to behave as though they are ‘drunk’.
An overfed plant will grow very quickly but they tend to be structurally week. They can grow taller than they would otherwise. They are then susceptible to the wind blowing them over. There is also the potential complication of having too much of one nutrient and not enough of another.
It makes good sense to add a small amount to the soil. Don’t apply more than 2 to 3 inches of manure to the soil surface. Allow sufficient time for this to be either absorbed into the soil, by worms or dig it in.
Is cow manure good for flower gardens?
One of the most famous questions about cow manure is: Is cow manure good for roses? The answer to this is, of course, yes. There can’t be a single rose variety that wouldn’t benefit from a really good dose of cow manure.
You could add cow manure to a growing rose at any time of the year and it will make good use of it. Rose plants can take a sudden heavy dose of the type of nutrients that cow manure provides. There’s no limit to what they will take, I don’t think it’s possible to overfeed a rose bush.
You may need to take a bit more care when putting cow manure among growing-flowers in a flower garden. Not all flower plants appreciate large volumes of cow manure. Any flower-garden will perform better after the addition of cow manure or any other manure but you need to add small, measured amounts to avoid over-feeding.
If you have it and you want to use it, fresh cow manure can be applied to a flower-garden in the Spring of the year. We don’t eat flowers, so this won’t be a problem but, given a choice, the best way of using cow manure is to convert it into compost, then spread it around. This is a safer way of handling it and it’s more pleasant to use.
Is chicken manure better than cow manure?
Asking around, the view is that there is very little difference between the two. Cow manure will have a slightly higher level of potash. Chicken manure may have a higher level of nitrates if spread when fresh. The nitrates in chicken manure are unstable and aren’t retained. The spreading would have to happen soon after production because nitrogen will vent away from chicken manure in the form of ammonia.
There may be a bonus from chicken manure that isn’t always appreciated. There is the possibility that there will be particles of broken eggshells in the manure mixture. This is calcium carbonate. It will have the same effect on soil as hydrated white lime, it will help to neutralize soil acidity.
Both chicken and cow manure will make compost. Both will lose their respective nitrate levels during the composting process but will be left with significant levels of potash and phosphates, enough to be of use as plant feed.
Is bagged manure good for garden?
Any manure bagged or otherwise will be good for the garden. There will be the usual range of nutrients that plants can make use of. However some people have aired their reservations.
I’ve never used cow manure out of a bag. So, I’ve been asking a round and found some interesting reviews.
The big concern that some people have about bagged manure is the risk of hidden residues that may be in the manure. Some farms use chemicals which may stay in the manure. This will apply regardless of whether we’re looking at bagged manure that is composted or manure that has been dried.
If you are looking at composted bagged manure, be sure that the contents have been composted for the required amount of time. This would make it safe to use as regards potentially harmful pathogens being present.
There’s also the belief that bagged manure has a higher salt content.The salt-content issue shouldn’t be too much to worry about. All manures tend to have a salt element but it’s not so much that it adversely affects growing plants.
If you can’t be sure of the source of the bagged manure that you are looking at, then, perhaps it would be better to try and find a source on a farm where you can establish the history of the manure and what the farm’s production methods are.
Which vegetables do not like manure?
The general view about this is that you need to keep it away from root crop vegetables e.g. carrots and parsnips. Manure has been blamed for ‘forking’ of the tap-root. This appears to happen if you apply manure during the growing season.
Many people report that they’ve had no problems if they add manure to a vegetable patch in the Autumn. The winter-period will allow time for the manure to rot down completely. The worms will work through the manure and take it into the ground, fully incorporating it into the soil.
When the Spring sowing time comes the manure that you’ve applied, should have become part of the soil and you shouldn’t have any problems growing all vegetables.
How much manure is needed to spread?
You could go to any of the top universities out there and you could get an exact measurement of how much manure is needed to spread over an exact area of ground. Then it will go on about how deep you need to dig the soil to mix it in.
For most people, securing a supply of cow manure is the main thing, figuring out how to make the best use of it in the garden, is the easy part.
If you have a heap of cow manure that’s at the pre-composting stage, you can’t do much with it until the Autumn comes. Depending on what time of the year you took delivery of the load, this may mean waiting a while.
But this won’t be a problem. If you have a heap of cow manure sat there in the backyard for most of the Summer, it will start to rot down. You could help it along by throwing some hydrated white lime over it and dig it over a couple of times. But you don’t have to.
When the Autumn time comes, this is when you need to get to work and spread it out. Unless you have an absolute mass of cow manure to the point where you could cover your garden-patch with several inches, you will probably want to make what little you have, go as far as possible.
As a guide, allow for a thickness of spread of no more than 3 inches on soil that’s going into the dormant Autumn/Winter period. Less than 3 inches won’t be a problem if you want to stretch out what you have to make it go further.
How do I mix cow manure in my garden?
The easy answer to this is: let the worms do it. If you are feeling energetic, it may help to dig the garden at this stage especially if you have heavy clay soil that needs to be opened up to allow air into it.
If you leave the worms to it over the Winter months, they digest it and take it into the soil, leaving the odd pieces of straw on the surface.
Why is manure added to soil before tilling?
The only manure that you should add to soil before tilling is synthetic manure. This will be a balance of potash, phosphates and readily available nitrates.
It’s the readily available nitrates part that needs careful handling. Nitrates are very mobile. From the moment that synthetic manures are applied to the ground, the nitrates become soluble and need to be used by the plants that we are trying to grow or it will escape to the atmosphere as nitrogen.
There are times when adding synthetic manure to soil before tilling, may be too soon. It may be better to allow the plants to become established. Plants will make the most use of available nitrates when they are growing and fully functional.
The potash and phosphates are mainly static and can only be lost by dissolving in water and draining away.
It makes no sense to add fresh cow manure to soil before tilling unless it’s being applied weeks before. Fresh manure, of any kind, will rot down in or on the soil. This process will extract nitrates from the soil at a time when we need it for the plants.
You could, however, add cow manure that has been composted. It would need to be a black, crumbly finished compost which would indicate that there is no more decomposition to take place and, therefore, would not extract any nitrates from the soil.
Composted cow manure would provide plenty of potash and phosphates for the growing plants. There would be little or no nitrates available from the compost, so a plant would rely on what it can get from the soil.
Is cow manure acidic?
Fresh cow manure will become acidic when it’s allowed to decompose. A level of acidity is inevitable. This is nothing to panic about. The concentrations of acids, here, won’t be enough to take the skin from your hands. Any composting process will generate acids. Cow manure, especially when mixed with straw, will convert to compost.
If you place an iron object in cow manure while it’s rotting down, you will notice, after a while, that it will become very rusty. This will be because of the effect of the acids on the surface of the iron.
The acidity in compost can be neutralised quite easily by adding hydrated white lime. This will work for any composting procedure, regardless of whether cow manure is involved. A low level of acidity will allow compost to become fully formed quicker than that of high acidity. Acidic materials tend to be preserved, we want cow manure to rot down.
Is pig manure good for the garden?
Pig manure definitely has a place in any garden but there are a few things to think about.
Pig manure should be treated with extra care. Don’t ever be tempted to add fresh pig manure to soil where you are growing food crops. Because of the pig’s diet, you can’t be sure of what may be in the manure. There may be parasite issues and the risk of e.coli.
If ever there’s a manure that needs to be heaped up in an out-of-the-way place, it must surely be pig manure. For a start, there’s the smell. Some people are used to it, although, personally, I can’t think how.
Fortunately, like all manures, it will only go one way. It will, thankfully, turn into compost. This process can be accelerated when you add straw to the mix, if there isn’t enough straw already in it. A good smothering of hydrated white lime is a must for this. The point being that you need to do all you can to convert pig manure to compost as quickly as possible for all the right reasons.