Composting horse manure is a great way to increase the fertility of soil in your garden. Horse manure provides a great source of organic material and can be used to improve soil structure, drainage, and aeration. But if you don’t know how to do it correctly, you could end up with a pile of manure that takes forever to decompose. In this blog post, I discuss the best way to compost your horse manure quickly so you can get the most use out of it in your garden.
This post is about horse manure.
[Related Post: All About Mushroom Compost for the Vegetable Garden]
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The Benefits of Composting Horse Manure: Horse Manure in the Garden
Horse manure isn’t just the excrements of horses but can contain a wide range of materials. It can contain wood shavings, sawdust, bedding material from the stalls, undigested plants, grasses, and seeds. Just as with other composts, the seeds are sterilized during the composting process when the pile becomes hot.
Gardening usually requires constant amending of the soil in an effort to keep it from being depleted from nutrients. Many plants are heavy feeders and consume a lot of the nutrients in the soil, which then needs to be replaced.
There are a number of ways to replenish the soil, but in this post, I’ll be discussing horse manure and its benefits.
Horse Manure in the Garden
Using horse manure as a source of fertilizer for the garden can provide a number of benefits. Adding it as an organic material to the soil helps to improve its structure, increases the porosity of the soil and helps to prevent soil compaction, improves its ability to hold moisture, helps promote bacteria and fungi, and increases its ability to take in and process air. It’s also high in nitrogen and can help balance the pH of soil. Additionally, it has a much higher nutritional value than cow manure.
To get the most out of composting horse manure, you’ll need to make sure you choose the right method for your situation. Fortunately, there are a few different ways to compost horse manure quickly that are suitable for different environments and composting needs.
Knowing the Cons to Using Horse Manure
I always like to know the cons to anything I’m deciding to use in my garden so I’m extending the same to you. Of course there are pros and cons to anything that you use. Knowing what they are can help make the best decision for you and your garden’s needs.
- Horse manure is low in both phosphorus and potassium. So if you’re looking to add those nutrients into the soil, you’ll have to add another product to your soil.
- It contains more seeds in it compared to other types of manure. Hot composting is therefore really important to prevent weeds from growing in your garden.
- The composting process takes longer than cow or chicken manure.
- Since horses aren’t ruminants like cows, their food is less “processed” in their gut. They are known for poor digestion. Ruminants go through a process of reprocessing their food by chewing cud and also ferments food in its gut. Cud is partly digested food that’s returned from the first stomach of ruminants to the mouth for further chewing.
- It can be too high in salt which is damaging to plants.
- It can take a long time to break down in the soil.
Now that we’ve looked at the benefits and the cons to horse manure, let’s learn about composting it.
What You Need Before You Start
It’s super important to make sure you compost horse manure first before using it in the garden. Without composting it, plants’ roots can be burned. Before getting started with composting horse manure, the following items are needed:
- compost bin or tumbler
- pitchfork or shovel
- nitrogen-rich material (such as grass clippings, leaves, plant debris, kitchen waste or other organic matter)
- source of water
Building Your Compost Pile
Composting horse manure requires a few key steps to ensure it’s done safely and effectively.
- Build your compost pile.
Layer the manure with soil, wood chips, straw, and other organic materials. Add equal parts of manure and carbon-rich materials.
Be sure to create air pockets throughout the compost pile so that oxygen can reach the decomposing material.
Keep an eye out for odors and water saturation since these can both create problems during the composting process.
Create a compost bin that’s at least 3 feet wide and 3 feet tall.
- Turn the compost over regularly to allow for even decomposition.
Turning the pile helps aerate the compost, which speeds up the process and ensures that all materials in the compost pile are decomposing equally. Check to make sure what’s inside your compost pile is still in the correct ratio. Too much of one material can throw off the whole process.
- Keep the compost pile moist, but not waterlogged.
Too little water will slow down decomposition, while too much can create anaerobic conditions, which will lead to odors and potential pathogens. Check the moisture content of the compost every week and add water as needed.
Make sure the bin is kept covered in some way to prevent excess water. A tarp can be placed over it or have it under some sort of roof covering. Monitor the temperature of the pile. The pile needs to reach at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit to kill off weeds.
Once the pile has been maintained at a temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 days, turn the pile. Once it reaches 130 degrees Fahrenheit again and remains at that temperature for 3 days, it’s now ready to be used. This process can take 4 to 6 weeks.
Frequent turning of the pile may speed up composting of the pile.
Vermicomposting Horse Manure
Another way to compost horse manure is through vermicomposting. To vermicompost horse manure, following the below steps:
- Fill the bin with horse manure and then add the worms.
- As with any other type of composting, cover the bin to keep the worms warm and the pile moist.
- Turn the pile every few weeks to aerate.
- This method requires composting for 6 months so it’s not a fast process.
Managing Your Compost Pile: Step-by-Step Summary
Step 1: Select a Composting Site
Choose a well-drained area away from water sources and structures. Make sure the site is easily accessible for adding materials and turning the compost pile.
Step 2: Gather Materials
Collect horse manure, straw or bedding material, and other compostable materials such as kitchen scraps, leaves, or grass clippings. It’s important to have a proper balance of carbon-rich (browns) and nitrogen-rich (greens) materials.
Step 3: Layering
Begin by creating a base layer of straw or other bulky materials. Add a layer of horse manure on top, followed by a layer of greens such as kitchen scraps or fresh grass clippings. Repeat this layering process until you have a pile that is at least three feet high.
Step 4: Watering
Moisten the pile as you build it to achieve the moisture level similar to a damp sponge. Too much water can lead to a soggy pile, while too little can hinder the decomposition process.
Step 5: Turning the Pile
After about a week, use a pitchfork or shovel to turn the pile. This is done to help aerate the compost. Providing oxygen is an important step in the decomposition process. Turning the pile often will help to speed up reaching the result you need. Turn the pile as often as 3 times a week to every few weeks, depending on how quickly you want the pile to compost.
Step 6: Monitoring
Regularly monitor the compost pile’s temperature, moisture level, and smell. The pile should reach temperatures between 130°F and 160°F (55°C to 71°C) within the first few days, which is essential for killing pathogens and weed seeds. Adjust the moisture and aeration as needed.
Step 7: Maturation
Composting can take anywhere from several months to a year, depending on various factors. Once the compost is dark, crumbly, and earthy in smell. It’ll also start cooling off on its own and be half of its initial size. There should be no odor coming from the pile. It’s now ready to be used in gardens or landscaping projects.
Using Your Finished Compost
So you’re now ready to use the horse manure compost. How much compost should be used?
A general rule of thumb is to use 20 pounds per cubic yard.
Too much fertilizer can damage plants.
When putting down the horse manure, turn/mix it into the soil of your garden. It shouldn’t be left on top of the soil.
Remember, never use fresh horse manure directly on your garden. It can cause your plants to burn. Composting horse manure is a great way to get high-quality organic material for your garden or lawn. Follow the steps outlined in this blog post, and you’ll have a compost pile that produces usable fertilizer fast.
There are some crops that don’t like horse manure. Root vegetables are the least likely to benefit from it. Crops such as: potatoes, beets, carrots, onions, turnips, and radishes.
Call to Action: Now that you know how to produce high-quality compost from horse manure quickly, why not try it in your own garden? Share your progress and results by leaving a comment below!