How to Use Cow Manure

Overview

Fertilizers help plants grow by adding nutritional elements and texture to the soil in yards and gardens. Although landscape nurseries and gardening centers sell commercially prepared fertilizers, animal dung creates an inexpensive alternative for many home gardeners. Recycling waste products from livestock and poultry saves money and offers a useful way to dispose of large quantities of animal waste. A single cow produces adequate amounts of manure to fertilizer several, large gardens.

Step 1

Create a compost pile of cow manure. Rake up and haul your fresh cow manure to a large, flat area of soil. Compost requires adequate warmth and airflow to decompose. Place your manure pile far away from wells and sources of surface water used by livestock. Choose a location that does not experience water retention after a rain. Select an area downwind of your home to avoid unpleasant smells while the compost ages.

Step 2

Use a shovel to turn your pile of cow manure every few days. Fresh cow manure seldom burns healthy, mature plants, but delicate seedlings and small plants may experience fertilizer shock from new manure. Age your cow manure for at least 30 days before using in your garden.

Step 3

Apply your aged manure to your garden soil. Spread a layer of manure over the soil before planting your garden in the spring. Do not work wet or frozen soil. Wait until the ground thaws and any existing mud dries out. Mix the cow manure into the underlying soil with a garden tiller. Break up and mix the soil to a depth around 6 to 8 inches. Go over your planting site two to three times, thoroughly mixing the fertilizer into the soil.

Step 4

Place aged cow manure around the bases of shrubs, trees and perennial plants to replenish the nutrients in the soil around these types of plants. Mulch your mature plants with a 2 to 3 inch layer of aged compost to help hold in moisture around the roots. Leave a couple of inches between the stems or trunks and the layer of manure. Placing cow manure too close to plants restricts the airflow around the plants and may increase the risk of molds and other diseases.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid eating fresh vegetables from gardens grown in cow manure for at least 120 days after applying the manure to avoid the risk of disease-causing pathogens. Thoroughly wash your produce before eating it.

Things You'll Need

  • Rake
  • Shovel
  • Garden tiller

References

  • USA Gardener: Compost, Manure and Fertilizer
  • Washington State University: Composting Livestock Manure
  • "Your Garden", Pauline Hodgkinson, 2004

Who Can Help

  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service: Utilization of Dairy Manure as Fertilizer
Keywords: cow manure, cow fertilizer, compost cow manure

About this Author

Laura Dee is a writer, artist, and the co-owner of Wallace & Wallace Copywriting,an online business which specializes in providing marketing materials and copy to various companies. She has written for Demand Studios since 2008 and is currently working on a series of childrens' picture books.