Composting is a win-win situation for the environment, your garden and your budget. By using materials that would otherwise end up in the landfill to create soil-enriching compost, you save money on store-bought soil enhancers. But what kinds of waste materials can you add to your compost bin? Specifically, is it safe to add manure to the compost pile, and if so, what kind?
Composting occurs in nature when plants die, decompose and enrich the ground where previously those same plants grew and lived. Compost for the garden is formed basically the same way, by taking organic matter that is decomposing and helping it along a bit to hasten the process.
Materials used for making compost include kitchen waste such as coffee grounds, egg shells, orange rinds and bits of vegetables; yard waste like grass clippings and leaves; and wood-based materials such as twigs, wood chips, paper and cardboard.
So where does manure fit into the mix? If it's pet manure, specifically dog and cat, it's best to leave it out altogether. Cat and dog manure can contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses which are harmful to humans, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Other animals' manure, however, can often be added to the compost bin.
Other Animal Manure
Poultry manure is a good addition to your compost pile. Ken Thompson, plant ecologist and author of Compost: The Natural Way to Make Food for Your Garden, said "Chicken manure is high on nutrients and makes an excellent compost activator." He also recommends pigeon manure for the same reasons.
Decomposed livestock manure makes for good compost, as well.
Green Manure: Definition
Green manure is a crop that is grown for a few months before you kill it and allow the organic material to go back to the soil and enrich it. Farmers do this when they till under their cornstalks each year after harvesting the corn. You can grow specific crops in the off-season just for this purpose.
Plants like clover, alfalfa, peas and beans, all legumes, add nitrogen to the soil and are especially effective, as are plants with deep roots like alfalfa, which drink up the nutrients deep in the ground and bring them closer to the surface so your garden plants can benefit, too.
Green Manure: Benefits
The benefits of adding green manure to your compost bin are many. Green manure provides organic material, helps retain nutrients, breaks up the soil, cut down on the weeds, and can attract pollinating insects.