Animal manure has been used in fruit and vegetable gardens for centuries. Composted manure is a great way to add nutrients back into your soil and is perfect for use in small and large gardens. It takes a few months to get compost ready, but it is a very effective way of replenishing nutrients in your soil.
However, animal manure has also caused problems for growers. It might do more harm than good if you use it improperly.
First of all, you should avoid using uncomposted raw manure on all your fruit and vegetable plants. But, this is not the case for composted manure. When manure is composted correctly, it can be used as fertilizer in your fruit and vegetable garden without any adverse effects.
So, let us dive deeper:
What Is Manure?
Manure is produced by domestic livestock animals fed a diet high in green plants. This type of animal waste can be used as a fertilizer and has been widely used in agriculture throughout history. Animal manures commonly used to enrich the soil are:
- Cow manure,
- Horse manure,
- Sheep manure,
- Goat manure,
- Chicken manure,
- Duck manure,
- Pig manure.
Manure contains valuable nutrients for plants, such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K). It also has other nutrients like magnesium, calcium, and sulfur. These nutrients can be placed back into your soil as fertilizer to improve your crops.
Never use human, cat, or dog waste in your garden, as it contains pathogens that can harm your garden soil and plants. 
What Is Compost?
Compost is a combination of green and brown materials that break down in a compost heap to create nutrient-rich soil.
This process occurs naturally in nature, but it can also be controlled in your garden to create high-quality, organic matter. Compost can be used as fertilizer or soil conditioner.
What Is Composted Animal Manure?
Composted manure is animal manure left for at least three months to rot and decompose. This process removes pathogens from the manure and turns it into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Manure composted is highly beneficial because it contains a large number of nutrients.
When manure is added to your garden soil, these nutrients are slowly released over time. Plants grown in soil mixes containing composted manure tend to be healthier and produce more.
Why Is Fresh Manure Not Recommended For Fruit And Vegetable Gardens?
Fresh manure is not recommended for fruit and vegetable gardens for three main reasons:
- Applying fresh animal manure directly to your garden can burn the roots of your crops due to high ammonia and nitrogen content.
- Fresh animal manure can be contaminated by herbicides. This can damage or even kill all of your sensitive plants.
- Fresh animal manure can contaminate vegetables with harmful bacteria and parasites.
Why Is Composted Manure Recommended For Fruit And Vegetable Gardens?
Composted manure is recommended for fruit and vegetable gardens for these reasons:
- It is an excellent source of nutrients for plants.
- It helps build healthy soil, and it can reduce soil erosion.
- It is an excellent source of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).
- Composted manure is not harmful to your plants due to its lower pH, ammonia, and nitrogen content. So, it will not burn roots of your plants.
- Composting reduces the volume and the odor of the manure.
- Properly composted manure doesn’t have harmful bacteria and parasites.
If you are using manure in your vegetable garden, compost it first! Composting is a great way to break down the manure and make it easier to use.
Why is Manure Composted?
Animal manure such as cows, horses, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, and pigs have a rich source of nutrients that can be used to fertilize plants. However, manure is a by-product of animals. It contains pathogens that can cause diseases to your garden plants.
The most effective way to use animal manure is after composting. This is done by storing it for at least three months. Natural bacteria and earthworms will break down manure during this period, making it safe to use as plant food.
How To Make Composted Manure?
You can make composted manure yourself by placing raw manure in an open pile or using a covered composting system.
Open Pile Composting
Composting in an open pile is a very simple process. All you need is some manure, place it on the ground, and wait.
- Inexpensive way of composting,
- Convenient and easy to use,
- No equipment required,
- No special skills are required.
- There is no control over the temperature,
- There is no control over the moisture,
- The heat from the compost pile may attract rodents and pests,
- The odor is not contained.
Covered Composting System
A covered composting system consists of a plastic, wood, or metal box with a lid. The manure is placed in the box so that the air can circulate.
- This system provides excellent temperature control,
- You can control the amount of moisture,
- It requires less space,
- Pests and rodents are kept out.
- It is expensive,
- Requires some maintenance,
- Requires some skills to use it.
Once the manure has been composted, it can be used as a fertilizer for your plants.
If you are unsure that your manure has been fully composted, you can check it by putting a few shovels full into a bucket of water. If manure odor is present, it hasn’t gone through an entire decomposition process.
Suppose you do not have space to use an open pile or a covered composting system. In that case, you can always bury fresh manure in your garden soil for at least three months before planting your vegetable. This will ensure that manure will break down and the soil absorbs the nutrients before the planting season starts.
What Happens Inside Manure Compost Pile?
- Naturally occurring bacteria and earthworms will take over the compost pile. To do the job, they need a material with high nitrogen (which is manure), a material with high carbon (which can be straw), moisture, and air.
- Bacteria will cause the compost to heat up to approximately 160oF (~70oC). That is why steam can be seen when the pile is turned over. This heat will kill most diseases and weed seeds inside manure.
- Manure will become crumbly dark brown when the composting is finished. The smell will turn from ammonia-like to a pleasant earthy smell.
It can take from 3 to 6 months for manure to fully compost. 
How Does Composted Manure Benefit Garden Soil?
Composted manure helps to improve the quality of soil and keeps it healthy. This helps plants grow well and resist pests and diseases. Composted manure can be used as a fertilizer in any garden. It improves the soil’s texture, structure, and water-holding capacity.
Animal manure composting also reduces the need to buy chemical fertilizer. This is obviously better for your soil and plants!
Watch this video below to see how Charles Dowding uses the heat of composting manure to encourage seed germination and early growth of seedlings.
Can Composted Manure Be Used As A Mulch?
Composted manure will act like mulch in some way. It will improve soil quality over time, stimulate plant growth, and conserve moisture, but it will not protect from weeds.
Weeds will sprout faster than the plants you want to grow. So, composted manure should not be considered as mulch. It should be regarded as fertilizer.
If you are adding compost manure on top of your soil, add a layer of wood chips, shredded leaves, or straw on top.
Is Composted Animal Manure Safe?
Composting is a natural process. In fact, it’s the same thing that soil microorganisms do every day without our help. Soil microorganisms use animal and plant waste to produce nutrients for future growth. But, if you are not composting properly, decomposition can take very long, leading to an unhealthy and smelly pile.
As mentioned at the start of the article never use human, cat, or dog waste in your garden, as it contains pathogens that can harm your garden soil and plants.
Composting is a very simple process. There are many benefits of composting animal manure, and it is a great way to improve your garden soil. Manure is one of the best natural fertilizers, and It contains all the nutrients that plants need to grow.
Composting is a great way to reduce the amount of chemicals that are being applied to any garden soil.
What To Do Next
Check out our Growing Guides to learn more about how to grow plants of your choice. Learn and help your plants by reading these guides.
Also, check out other similar articles in our Soil and Fertilizers section.
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