What a load of… Manure

Black gold. It’s essential in the garden. Most choose the bovine poo, but there are many options to choose from, each with their own unique benefits. The question is, are you managing your manure in a safe way? Are your foods still safe to eat?

Black gold. It's essential in the garden. Most choose the bovine poo, but there are many manure options to choose from, each with their own unique benefits.

With news broadcasts on TV about foods being sold that were contaminated with things like E. Coli. many people are now wondering if manures are safe to use in the garden. Less and less commercial farms are using manure in their operations. Should that be telling us something?

Using Fresh Manures

Fresh manures can pose problems for gardeners and often times they don’t do what we intended when they are fresh. First off, the nitrogen is often too strong and will burn or kill plants. Often times it’s the wrong form of nitrogen and bacteria for what your plants need. Only with aging will it be the right balance.

Secondly, manures are composting “greens.” If anyone remembers their composting 101, you need to layer your “greens” with your “browns” for effective composting. Manures work best when mixed with straw, wood shavings and dried leaves.

Thirdly, fresh manure can contain pathogens and salts from the animal’s digestive tract. Neither of these things will do any good for your gardens and most will harm in the wrong run. Proper composting of the manure removes these “imperfections” due to the heat build-up of the pile.

Black gold. It's essential in the garden. Most choose the bovine poo, but there are many manure options to choose from, each with their own unique benefits.
Manure is just one of the many ways animals contribute to a homestead.

So which kind of manure is right for you?

Let’s do a brief rundown of the typical types:


The highest of all manures in nitrogen and phosphorus. May burn plants if it’s not properly aged. Make for fabulous leafy greens.


A good all-purpose manure. Lower in nitrogen so it’s less apt to burn plants, but also lacks the nutrients that other manures may offer.


Another good all-purpose manure, but like with cows, it tends to be lower in nitrogen. There is also a risk of weed seeds remaining in the manure.


A nice dry manure that falls somewhere between cow/horse and poultry manures in regards to nitrogen levels.

Obviously, there are other types of manures available (goat, bat, elephant), but these are the most common.

Best Types of Manure for Each Application

Flower Gardens

Cow, horse, and rabbit manures applied in early spring.

Vegetable Gardens

Chicken, cow, horse and rabbit manures applied in both spring and fall.

Root Crops

Chicken, cow, horse and rabbit manures applied in both the spring and fall.

Acid-Loving Plants

Cow and horse manures applied in early fall. 

So how much poo should you use? For conditioning your soil, a rate of 40 lbs per 100 square feet works well. For poor soils or new beds, you are better off doubling that. If you are just top dressing, a 1-2″ layer is more than sufficient.

Black gold. It's essential in the garden. Most choose the bovine poo, but there are many manure options to choose from, each with their own unique benefits.

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  1. Ronnie Safreed says:

    Humanure(human waste manure), hog/pig manure & munure from carniverous animals(dogs/cats/other carniverous & omniverous animals)can be used for veggie gardens but must be “fully cured”by completely decomposing before use. If not it can be used on lawns & landscape plants or say in nut & fruit tree orchards, grape vines & berry vine plants. Also for added benefit letting (especially carniverous animal manure)age a year or two will 100% assure all parasites/harmful bacterias & viruses are gone.Hog/pig manure that is from hogs that have been fed a vegetarian diet can be looked upon as more safer than hog manure that is from an omniverous hog fed diet. fed garbage & animal scraps. Also if the hogs have no intestinal worms the manure would be safer & may not need “aging” a year or two.Now today 70% plus of pork has no worms.

  2. Richard Betteridge says:

    What about pig manure, is that any good?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I haven’t used pig manure, so I’m not sure.

  3. Jacques Lebec says:

    Hi, interesting post. I use a mixture of compost and dried steer manure a lot. But I have found that worm composting and using the worm castings mixed with home made compost works at least equally well. Have you ever used castings? It is organic nitrogen, it will not burn your plants. “Worm” Tea can be made from it as well, again very nitrogen rich. If you haven’t tried worm composting, you may enjoy it, they really are amazing little creatures. Great Post!

  4. Bettye Mitchell says:

    Excellent, great information, thanks.

  5. Bettye Mitchell says:

    Hello Jessica,missed you, thank you for all the advice.

  6. Jessica,
    I am blessed to have a property where I can raise goats, chickens, and rabbits. But I also live down the road from the only organic raw cow dairy in Arizona. She feeds the cows organically raised alfalfa and puts EMs in the water. No hormones are used and if a cow needs antibiotics she is culled from the herd. She gives aways the manure.
    I love your blog. You are an inspriration for me.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Luck you! I had a great source for very aged cow and horse manure. It was fabulous stuff. Unfortunately, I think the supply is depleted. I’ll have goat manure next year, but not aged. I have more chicken manure than I know what to do with. My neighbors visit with empty buckets and leave with them full.

  7. Google “persistent herbicides”. You need to know that your hay, grain, straw, grasses, etc were grown on fields that were not sprayed with certain broadleaf herbicides that persist in the soil. They persist in animal manures and are not destroyed by composting. They may also be present in commercial compost. Know what you are using! I learned the hard way!

  8. I honestly had no idea that manures were different! That explains why the horse manure seems to work better then the chicken manure though! Thanks for the info!

    Thanks for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday. I hope to see you again this week!


  9. Carole West @ Garden Up Green says:

    Llama and sheep are my favorites. I add using a tea twice a year and then directly add the pellets in the winter, works great with our climate. I’ve used cow and horse when we raised both on our farm a few years back, contains to many seeds from both pasture grass and grain. Those are actually better applied in the form of a tea if you don’t want the weeds. The chickens though they just free range so they fertilize year round without any problems, coops are mobile which is fantastic, waste just gets worked back into the ground. Messy with poo is stinky business and not something I enjoy. LOL

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I love compost/manure tea. My dad made me a wishing well style tea maker with a spigot for using a low pressure hose or for filling a watering pail.

  10. Hey there, I have my share of chicken manure mixed with wood shavings and straw. But I also have sheep and llama manure mixed with hay and straw. Last of all I have piles of just plain llama poop. Can you say a few things about these and/or direct me to a good source of how to use this in my gardens. Thanks.

    1. Hi Julie! Great question. I actually posted your question on our Facebook page and these are the responses I got:

      “Hi Julie! The farm down the way has llamas. When I took some of her poo she said I should let it compost over the summer. I use deep bedding and clean my coops out in the late spring. I use lots of leaves, straw and such in my bedding and toss some goodies into the bedding for them to scratch and turn it about. But, it’s still steaming when I remove it so it’s not done cooking. I think if it’s still producing lots of heat…let it cook. If it’s not then add it. Now, when I clean the coops out at the end of summer I take that straight to the garden and pile it right on top of a bunch of leaves if I have them and any hay that’s bad. I KNOW that extra heat up top keeps my worms nice and happy so they can eat all those leaves and such. If it’s crumbly like dirt I toss a handful into a wee hole that I’m planting, top dress (sprinkle it about the plant once there’s true leaves). I also take a bag of it and suspend it in a barrel of water to make compost tea. You can use any fabric and just fold the compost up. I let it sit and sit. I mix it so the water doesn’t stagnate and it’s smelly so you only wanna go a week at the longest unless it’s far enough back from the house.”

      “Goat manure is actually better than cow manure. Cow manure must be composted first because it has so high a nitrogen content, but goat manure can be placed right in your garden beds with little fear of burning your plants. I do not know about the llama’s, but since its manure is dropped in the form of pellets like goat, deer, and rabbits, I would think this is also true.”

      I hope this helps ๐Ÿ™‚