Hi, - finding it difficult to come up with a clear answer to the
following. I'm sure there are some excellent knowledgeable people
We have 1/2 acre + huge polytunnel and try to grow good veggies for
ourselves... We also have access to lots of horse dung ('oss-
but are not sure what we can use it on... The dung is fairly "pure",
i.e not much mixed up with straw bedding, and fresh-ish. Do we have
to compost it before we can use it? If so by mixing it with what? We
have access to lots of grass cuttings, but not hay/straw. Are there
any veggies that like it dug in "neat"? Or is it too strong for most
Horse is not a very strong (ie hot) manure as it is high in undigested
fibre (the horse's gut is not particularly efficient) and low on
nitrogen (compared to chicken or other birds' manure) . Before you
use it do a test to see what germinates from it so that you don't
import a vast number of pasture weeds or start growing oats etc. If
it has many viable seeds in it you will have to hot compost it before
use. I don't have the problem as I feed the horses on my own
pasture. I use it three ways.
1) Around established trees and shrubs straight off the paddock.
2) Layered in the compost heap with kitchen scraps and trimmings/
prunings and grass from the yard. The compost is then used in the
normal way anwhere.
3) Heaped up to rot on its own. I am in a warm climate with many bugs
that live in the turds so it breaks down within a month or two. This
mellows it somewhat and breaks up the nuggets into a fine fluffy mix
that is easily dug in. I use this anywhere including the vege garden
in fairly large quantities. In a cold climate or one that does not
host so many dungbeetles, flies and midges it will take longer to
I agree with much of what David says.
I also live in a hottish climate and use it as it comes in most situations
as I bag is as I load it into my truck. I don't use very fresh stuff on
seedlings but I do use it around half grown veg as a mulch with straw or hay
or other materials on top or dug in ot just thrown on the veg beds at the
beginning of winter and then let sit till spring.
The reason why I use horse manure and lots of it is that I have very poor
soil (with about an inch of real topsoil if I'm lucky). I'ts mostly subsoil
and had no worms or signs of microflora before I started a heavy regime of
horse poop application. Now I have both worms and some life in my soil.
I love the stuff, don't get many weeds (because I mulch and just pull up the
few that do germinate), find it is brilliant for soil improvement and
provides a good growing environment for most things I've tried it on or
around or planted into it (mixed with the existing "soil", or what passes
for it here).
Kitchen waste, your grass clippings, leaves, other compost material.
I'd let it decay and see what grows out of it. Who needs weeds?
If you want manure you can dig in while it's fresh, find animals
that do not get to graze - any grain fed live stock. A friend
shows up with a pickup trunk whenever there's a circus nearby
and she'll make as many trips as time allows. She says elephant
manure is as good as it gets. Since circuses aren't as frequent
as they were 40 years ago, she relies on cattle feeders for her
manure. Small breweries rely on farmers to haul off their malt
waste. The farmers use it as animal feed and give the manure
away. So check local breweries to see who hauls off their malt
I've never thought of horse manure as strong.
I'm probably in over my head here. I've only had access to horse manure
once, so listen up to those who have more experience than me. But to
kill off the weed seeds you will probably need a pile about 4 1/2' high
(about 2 cubic yards). You will see it steaming on cold mornings. The
heat kills off weeds and bugs (bacteria). If you use it fresh, you could
burn your crops (kill them), but if not, make sure you don't harvest
veggies for at least 3 months after the application. If the horses have
been wormed, the medication passes to the ground and kills off helpful
earth worms. Otherwise it is good shit:-)
Coloribus gustibus non disputatum
In my experience, carrots, parsnips and pulses will not like horse
manure, but just about everything else will. I dig it in mixed with
the bedding material it came with. If you want to dilute it, you can
access large amounts of wood chips by calling a tree company. They
will deliver you a load of chips for free, as this saves them landfill
fees. But there is probably no need for it.
For carrots etc. use patches that were manured the year before, add
some wood ash, but nothing else.
Another great way to use dung, if you're in a cool climate - and I'm
guessing, if you have a polytunnel, that you are - is to make hot
beds; dig trenches in your tunnels, about 2 feet deep. Half-fill the
trench with fresh, un-rotted dung, then top that with a layer of
compost or good topsoil - plant into the topsoil. The heat from the
rotting dung is trapped in the polytunnel - free heating for your
tunnels; it's a great way to grow early crops. The Victorians used
this method a lot, with dung under cold-frames but it works
particularly well, ime, in a polytunnel.
I've used cow & horse manure all my life and have found cow works
better than horse, but you use what you have. That being said, I am
really starting to have second thoughts about using animal manure in a
vegetable garden ever since the e-coli outbreak last year caused by
manure from a cattle farm getting into a vegetable field in
California. I always thought they were good for each other, but now
I'm not so sure.
About a minute after posting my comment, I noted this article from a
San Franscisco newspaper. Guess they're taking manure use seriously.
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Garden soil will benefit from annual applications of manure as much as
agricultural fields do. Good garden practices will minimize the
possibility of pathogen contamination.
The safest route is to use manure that has been aerobically composted.
During composting, the manure needs to reach temperatures above 130
degrees for at least two five-day heating cycles, and to be frequently
If using aged but uncomposted manure, never apply the manure to food
crops that are already growing. Mix the aged manure into the soil 120
days prior to harvesting food crops where the edible portion comes in
contact with the soil. If the edible portion doesn't come into contact
with the soil, this interval can be reduced to 90 days.
After handling manure, wash hands and any other soiled body parts with
soap and water.
Don't use the same tools for manure handling that you use for crop
harvesting without first washing them with soap and water.
Remove manure-contaminated clothing, especially shoes and gloves,
before entering the house.
Wash hands with soap and water before handling food.
Before eating or cooking fruits and vegetables, wash them well under
running water. Remove the outer leaves of leafy greens
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