Horse manure as fertilizer

Asked April 7, 2013, 7:06 PM EDT

My son boards his horse and brought home older, dry-crumbly horse manure for me to use in my garden beds. I have veggie beds and flower beds. Is this manure appropriate to use in both bed types or only one? For some reason, I think manure needs to age longer if it's used with consumable plants. Is this true? How does horse manure compare to other manures - for composting?

Larimer County Colorado manure composte

1 Response

It is ideal to use manure that has been well-aged, and if you are not sure how long it's been composted for, it's a difficult question to answer. The big problem with fresh manure (or manure that hasn't been aged long enough) is the potential for high salts, due to the animal's diet.

In terms of compost, using plant-based compost is preferred, but animal manure can be used--there is also concerns regarding weed pressure--composting or aging usually does not kill the weed seeds. You can use your manure in both vegetable and flower beds, but if you are concerned regarding edible crops, then you can just use it in flower beds--however, FRESH manure (not aged) is more of a concern...as it can spread e. coli and other organisms. This doesn't sound like it would be the issue with the manure you have available.

What you may consider doing is having the manure tested by the CSU soil, plant, water testing lab. It can test for soluble salts and other potential problems: http://www.soiltestinglab.colostate.edu/

Here is also additional information on using manure in the home garden: http://www.cmg.colostate.edu/gardennotes/242.pdf