How to Compost With Manure

Overview

Nitrogen-rich animal manure may have a potent odor capable of drawing droves of flies, but--properly managed--it can become nutrient-dense compost for your vegetable or flower garden. According to Grace Gershuny, coauthor of "The Soul of Soil," manure boosts organic matter and helpful microbial activity in the soil, which leads to healthier soil and plants. Allow at least six months for the composting process to occur and destroy bacteria and weed seeds that could be present in the manure.

Step 1

Collect animal manure in a heap next to a well-draining composting site. Stick with manure from plant-eating animals, such as cows, horse, goats, sheep and llamas; if you're concerned about the mess liquid cow manure may cause in your garden or compost heap, opt for goat, sheep or rabbit manure, which is easier to handle because it's in the form of small, firm pellets.

Step 2

Mix the animal manure with an equal amount of carbon-rich organic waste, such as straw, sawdust, wood chips or dead leaves. Mound the mix of manure and dry, carbon waste into a 3-foot-by-3-foot-by-3-foot heap directly on the bare soil. This allows the composting microorganisms in the ground to have prompt access to the organic waste.

Step 3

Water the heap of manure waste thoroughly with a gentle mist from your garden hose. Dampen the organic waste until it's about as wet as a wrung-out sponge, as recommended by the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension.

Step 4

Leave the heap of manure to decompose for one to two weeks. Mix the waste with a manure fork once every one to two weeks thereafter to encourage more rapid composting by introducing extra oxygen to the heap. Keep the heap as damp as a wrung-out sponge and continue turning the materials once weekly until it becomes loosely textured and has a dirt-like smell and appearance.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never use pet or pig manure for composting as it may contain harmful pathogens that could survive the composting process and infect humans.

Things You'll Need

  • Animal manure
  • Carbon-rich organic waste
  • Garden hose
  • Manure fork

References

  • "The Soul of Soil"; Grace Gershuny and Joseph Smillie; 1999
  • University of Illinois Cooperative Extension: The Science of Composting
Keywords: composting manure, composting animal manure, how to compost

About this Author

Regan Hennessy has been writing professionally for 11 years. A freelance copywriter and certified teacher, Hennessy specializes in the areas of parenting, health, education, agriculture and personal finance. During her time with Demand Studios, Hennessy has produced content for Ehow, Answerbag and Travels. Hennessy graduated from Lycoming College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.