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How to Compost Manure

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How to Compost Manure

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Overview

Manure is an excellent fertilizer and soil amendment because of its high content of vegetable matter and relatively low levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Composting manure prior to use is recommended, especially on certain "hot" manures, such as horse manure, which may burn plants. The best way to use manure is as a compost ingredient. The heat generated during composting kills undesirable weed seeds and makes the nutrients easily available to plants growing in soil amended with it.

Composting Fresh Manure

Step 1

Layer the compost ingredients of manure and shredded green and brown clippings in a pile 2-3 inches deep. Mix the compost pile with a garden fork or sturdy pitchfork.

Step 2

Water the compost pile and mix it again. The ingredients should be evenly moist, but not dripping wet.

Step 3

Cover the pile with a tarp to keep the rain out if you expect a lot of rain. Don't seal the pile--just cover it and weigh the corners down with rocks or bricks.

Step 4

Add ingredients as they become available, like fresh grass clippings, wood chips, kitchen vegetable scraps and peelings.

Step 5

Turn the pile weekly with a garden fork. Check it weekly by pushing a compost thermometer into the middle of the pile. An average to good operating temperature will be 140 degrees. A very hot pile might reach 170 degrees.

Step 6

Remove the rich black compost from the pile as needed. The pile should begin to produce compost in 6-12 weeks if it is well tended and the ingredients were shredded or chopped.

Using Manure Compost

Step 1

Spread composted manure on the garden bed to be amended. Minimum depth should be 2 inches, but 4-6 inches is better. It is hard to use too much--the more, the better.

Step 2

Turn the composted manure into the bed with a garden fork or spade. Some gardeners prefer a sturdy pitchfork. Mix the compost in the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches.

Step 3

Plant the garden bed with seeds, bedding plants or vegetable plants. About midway through the growing season or anytime a row is to be replanted, apply additional compost and work it into the soil.

Step 4

Use composted manure as a mulch, to add nutrients and moisture retention to the garden bed.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never use manure from dogs, cats, pigs or other carnivores or omnivores. It may contain parasites that can later be transferred to humans. Always wash your hands after handing fresh or composted manure. If the compost pile smells like a swamp, it isn't getting enough air. Turn it more frequently and add straw to the pile.

Things You'll Need

  • Manure
  • Green clippings (grass, leaves)
  • Brown clippings (wood chips, shredded newspaper)
  • Garden fork or pitchfork
  • Compost thermometer

References

  • The Vegetable Gardeners Bible; Edward C, Smith; 2000
  • All about manures for organic crop production

Who Can Help

  • Composting 101
Keywords: composting manure, compost pile ingredients, mulch soil amendment

About this Author

Michael Logan is a writer, editor and web page designer. His professional background includes electrical, computer and test engineering, real estate investment, network engineering and management, programming and remodeling company owner. Logan has been writing professionally since he was first published in "Test & Measurement World" in 1989.

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