Animal manures in the garden
by Liz Newman
Regarding all the different animal manures in a garden, I'd like more information. Can steer manure be used in a no dig garden for the fertilizer?
I'm getting both yes and no answers and I don't want to mess up my first attempt at a vegetable garden....I hope to get an answer soon so I can start the building process. Thank you in advance. Liz Newman
I'll use this reader's question to dump all the knowledge I have on ALL animal manures, from Aardvarks to Zebras. I get a lot of emails about this subject, so here we go with a pile of sssssteaming facts.
The manures that gardeners mostly use are cow, horse, sheep and chicken. They are organic, consisting of mostly of digested plant matter, some nitrogen, potash and small amounts of many trace elements. Real humdinger stuff for your garden — there's enough goodness in this fuel to power battleships and beetroot, rockets and rocket lettuce. Smells good too, and the worms love it.
It's a head-scratcher of a mystery why people go to garden centers and buy bags of artificial fertiliser instead of going to the nearest pony club, racing stables, chicken or egg farm, goat, sheep, beef, cow farm, or anywhere there are herbivorous animals or birds kept and raised in good (organic if possible) conditions.
Although they contain good amounts of nutrients, manures are especially good as soil conditioners… that is, they break down clay soils and build up sandy soils. Animal manure is not crash hot in N-P-K (Nitrogen/Phosphorous/Potassium) so a dressing of blood and bone provides a concentrated natural source of these.
Animal manures make good mulch once they are dried and the best are natural pelleted manures from the likes of sheep and others as they resist breakdown longer. They contain micro-organisms which are essential in helping plants break down and digest nutrients. They are good compost accelerators to help breakdown plant material.
Most animal manures for the garden are best put in the compost, layered with leaves or other carbon material. Or they can be scattered in the garden in shallow
layers. Otherwise particularly with horse manure or cow manure, leave to age and dry for 3-4 months before adding to the garden. Cover if necessary to deter flies.
A pile of fresh manure on your garden, like a pile of fresh grass clippings starts decomposing rapidly and will heat up to plant burning strength in no time! If you've ever mown your lawn and mounded up the grass clippings, within a few days bet you couldn't put your hand in the middle.
The most common animal manure for the garden is sheep manure.
This is often available in bags at garden centers. Fine to buy if you don't live out in the sticks near a farmer. Sheep manure is easy to handle and apply, like little pellets. Use straight on your garden as a compost layer or mix some in with your other compost scraps.
Next steer manure,
or what I call cow manure.
Again this is lovely sweet composty smelling organic gold for your garden. If you let it dry a bit then it's easy to handle and crumble into smaller bits for spreading on the garden. Put a layer straight on or throw some in your compost to help things along there too.Horse manure
is excellent but can have a dark side. Usually horse manure is collected from mucking out stables, so it can have a lot of urine in it. This is tempered by the sawdust or straw mixed in, but it does need to be weathered and dried for at least a month otherwise the high nitrogen content of the horse urine will burn your plants with urea. They will go madly lanky, overblown and leafy with all the nitrogen, or simply die off if badly affected.
The good old chooks give us chicken manure or poultry manure
This is often sold as dried pellets and it's more concentrated that the other manures as it doesn't have the organic content in it –'cause what they say about hens' teeth being rare is true. There ain't any, so they can't chew grass and leaves, thus no nice organic digested greenery.
That's all for now about using different animal manures in gardens. Keep watching (where you tread) as we may be taking a look at using manure from Aardvarks and Zebras another time.