How to Use Manure for Garden Fertilizer


Herbivore manure-based fertilizers add valuable nutrients to garden soil. They improve the structure of soil and increase its capacity to retain moisture, improving overall plant health. Back in the days before commercial fertilizers, many folks had a cows and a small flock of chickens in their yard. Your grandparents didn't know anything about all the fancy whys and wherefores. They just knew that the animal droppings provided a constant, no-cost, renewable source of ready-made plant food that made crops grow better. Manure will work as well for you as it did for the old-timers.

Step 1

Prepare your gardening site in the fall as you usually do. Measure the area that you plan to enrich with fresh manure.

Step 2

Calculate how much manure you're going to need. This amount is depends upon the animal species the manure was produced by. For every 100 square feet of garden, you'll need 8 to 10 lb. of poultry, 45 to 50 lb. of cattle, 45 lb. of horse, or 20 lb. of sheep manure. You can use a plastic 5-gallon bucket, which holds about 25 pounds of fresh manure, as a rough measure.

Step 3

Add fresh unprocessed manure to your gardening site in the fall. Amend it into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil within 12 hours of application. Don't just dump it and leave it. This will prevent loss of valuable soluble nitrogen into the atmosphere. Fall application will give the manure plenty of time to decompose into compost and nourish the soil before you're ready to plant in the spring. It will also allow hot manures to neutralize enough so that they won't burn tender young seedlings.

Step 4

Sow seeds and plant seedlings in the spring. Apply a thick mat of organic mulch. Mulching not only helps retain moisture, but will discourage weed growth. If you've used cattle, horse or sheep manure, you can expect a certain amount of weed seeds to germinate.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never use manure produced by carnivores. There is a high risk of disease and parasite transmission to humans from these products. Wear gloves when handling manure, and wash up well afterward. Though the risks are slim with herbivore manures, there's always the chance that pathogens can be passed along to us from animals.

Things You'll Need

  • Fresh herbivore manure
  • Plastic 5-gallon bucket


  • How Much Fresh Manure to Use
  • The Poop on Using Manure as Fertilizer
  • Manure Quick Tips

Who Can Help

  • Using Manure
Keywords: manure, manure fertilizer, how to use manure for garden fertilizer

About this Author

Axl J. Amistaadt began as a part-time amateur freelance writer in 1985, turned professional in 2005, and became a full-time writer in 2007. Amistaadt’s major focus is publishing material for GardenGuides. Areas of expertise include home gardening, horticulture, alternative and home remedies, pets, wildlife, handcrafts, cooking, and juvenile science experiments.