Composting livestock manure is beneficial to your garden and to the care of livestock. Manure is an excellent source of nutrients for growing plants and should never be placed in the garden unless allowed to compost first. Fresh manure is high in nitrogen and will burn plants. By composting, you are allowing the heat of that nitrogen to break down all the nutrients, kill off fly eggs and weed seeds, and reduce manure run-off into waterways. Composted manure can be ready for your garden in about three weeks.
Consider dividing your compost area into three separate areas or bins. This allows you to have one bin of compost ready to use, one in the break-down stage and one to shovel new manure into. Keep the bins close to the stable for easy access, if applicable, and away from low-lying areas near creeks or other water sources.
Shovel manure into your bed. Add only the manure from livestock, horses, chickens, rabbits or other herbivorous animals. Do not add dog or cat waste.
Cover the bin with a tarp to protect manure from getting too wet. Water is needed in the breakdown, but you don't want so much that there's run-off from the bin. With water run-off goes your nutrients.
Turn your pile regularly with a garden fork to help get oxygen into the mix. The more oxygen, the faster the manure is ready as compost. Turning is important to keep the outsides of your pile at the same temperature as the core. As the nitrogen breaks down, the heat produced will kill bug eggs and weed seeds.
Use compost safely in your gardens after about a month. You can mix it into existing dirt before plants are established or shovel it around growth in your garden at any time. Compost is ready when the texture is even and has the consistency of dirt.
Things You Will Need
- Compost area or space for bins
- Garden fork
- If you have a large pile, consider drilling holes in a large PVC pipe and placing it in the center of the bin. The air then can circulate through the pile, allowing it to compost faster.
- Water the bin each time you add new manure, keeping it at the same dampness as a sponge.
- Composted or fresh manure available for composting usually is less expensive than store-bought chemicals and healthier for the soil and your family. Many local farmers will have it available. Contact your local extension office, garden center or check the classifieds to see what's available in your area.
- Keep your bin or compost area from getting soaking wet and washing the nutrients away.
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- Horse Manure As a Garden Fertilizer
- Alternatives to Nitrogen Fertilizers
- Compost with Paper
- Alternatives to Chemical Fertilizers
- Keeping Bugs & Roaches Out of Compost
- Accelerate Compost