Horse Manure: From Road Apples To Fantastic Fertilizer

Ed Wike
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What Is Horse Manure?

Horse manure is not just a byproduct of the equestrian industry. In fact, if you own a horse, you probably have a lot of it. In the United States, they are the most popular kind of pet. A recent survey found that over 25 million men and women own horses. That's a lot of manure! Yet, few people know how to use horse manure in their garden. Furthermore, horse poop can be quite the eyesore. Some people avoid realizing that a horse is on the premises until it's too late.

If you are one of the many who might have some horse manure on your property, this is a great time of year (the spring) to learn how to use manure in your garden.

What Is The Difference Between Horse Manure And Other Manures?

Horse manure has been called "road apples" for a reason. In Florida, a law was passed to help curb the problem of horses relieving themselves on the roads. That law is nothing short of ingenious. It requires that all owners keep the manure in a container because if you keep the corn cob-sized droppings from coming in contact with the ground, most will not decompose. Therefore, little to no odor will be produced.

Benefits Of Using Horse Manure

Unlike cow manure, horse manure contains no bacteria that produce gases harmful to humans. More importantly, horse manure is higher in nitrogen and less likely to burn plants. It also breaks down more quickly to provide a ready source of nutrients for your plants. Horse manure is also low in tannic acid which helps plants grow quickly, but which can interfere with the growth of other plants. On the negative side, horse manure also contains higher quantities of grease and salt, both of which can be detrimental to plants over the long run.

Horse manure is also easier to handle than larger quantities of cow manure which can become a bit "stinky", especially when it breaks down.

Note that, despite what many people think, flies that land on horse manure do not become "riders" that transmit equine diseases to humans. They do, however, carry RSV, a virus that can cause respiratory illness. Obviously, this can be an harm to young children who are too close to manure piles or in direct contact.

Horse manure is great for gardens that contain a large number of fruits and vegetables that are eaten raw or for gardens that are irrigated with water that is not treated with chemicals that are harmful to plants. Horse manure is also good for rose gardens and for hedges.

Drawbacks Of Using Horse Manure

One of the drawbacks of using animal manure is that many horse owners are reluctant to use it as fertilizer. Although you may feel the advantage of using animal manure is outweighed by the risks, reality tells us otherwise. Animal manure is an excellent source of two important nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorus.

Dry manure contains about 6% nitrogen, and liquid manure has at least three times more nutrients (12% to 15% nitrogen).

Raw manure is not for the casual user. This substance can contain a lot of parasites and bacteria. The type of parasites present can make other farmers and gardeners hesitant to allow you to spread raw manure at their farm.

Before applying any kind of manure to a garden, make sure you have a layer of straw or other mulch that can help prevent the spread of worms. Grass and herb gardens are usually less susceptible to the spread of animal manure.

How To Compost Horse Manure

The arrival of a new horse is a joyous occasion. Whether the horse is a new addition to your family or you have taken on the role as an equine caretaker for a friend, your life is about to change.

But you have to think about where to put the manure from your horse. Sure, it’s perfectly fine to leave it where it falls but you risk making a very large mess that your wife may not love and you’ll be out there every day trying to be a hero.

If you want to save yourself from being a doormat, you may want to start thinking about how you’re going to deal with the poo. If you take care of your horses’ waste properly, you will not only relieve yourself of backbreaking duty, but you will also begin to see the advantages of working with horse manure.

If you are a gardener, then you know the value of horse manure. If you are new to gardening, you’re going to want to learn the value of horse manure. Read on to learn what you will need to know to manage your horse’s manure properly.

Those who fail to plan, prepare to organize their garage sale from a dumpster.

Hot Composting Horse Manure

One of the best ways to compost large piles of horse manure is to use a hot composting method. The key to composting horse manure successfully without attracting unwanted pests is making sure that the temperatures in the pile reach at least 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius).

Ensuring that the manure reaches a high enough temperature to kill pathogens will help prevent the spread of a number of diseases. Hot composting is the best way to ensure that the manure you use will be safe to use in your garden.

The Great Compost Debate

The debate in the composting world has always been between hot composting and cold composting. Hot composting is also known as active composting. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released by the bacteria that deconstruct the material. In moderate amounts, VOCs like carbon dioxide are actually beneficial to plants, but too many VOCs can actually choke the plants and compost pile. Compost piles should be turned regularly to encourage the release of carbon dioxide. However, turning a pile while it reaches the required temperatures can be tricky.

Hot composting is done in a container. Large piles are usually not practical in containers. Small, container composting offsets this by allowing you to create a smaller pile, which increases the speed that the pile reaches high enough temperatures to destroy any unwanted organisms.

Vermicomposting Horse Manure

Vermicomposting is a popular way to harvest the benefits of horse manure while reducing the amount of waste your horse produces.

Simply put, water hyacinth or some other weed seeds are added to the manure, a bin of some sort is used to contain it, and within weeks, the worms turn the manure into a rich, compost-like material.

For the best composting results, it's recommended that you pick a spot that's protected from wind and sun. Compost worms are susceptible to both, so it's important to keep them in a warm, dry area.

Vermicompost can be used to fertilize trees, bushes, and plants. It can also be used for the beautification of the areas around your house.

Collect and use the solid manure that remains in the bin to fertilize flowerbeds and vegetable gardens.

Algae will thrive on the remaining compost, and will help the compost break down faster.

Since remnants of water hyacinth will inevitably remain when the vermicomposting process is over, it's not a type of compost you should use in your garden.

Can Horse Manure Be Composted Other Ways?

Horse manure is very high in a plant nutrient called nitrogen.

This makes it an excellent fertilizer for grass and other fast growing sorts of plants.

One of the best parts about horse manure is that you only have to put a handful of it into your compost pile in order to make it start composting.

If you are planning to compost the manure yourself, you will want to make sure you have some sort of tarp under the pile.

This will protect the ground from the inevitable runoff. Also, you will want to be sure that your pile is at least three feet from any buildings or fences. Aside from those few precautions, horse manure is a very safe way to create plant fertilizer and you can make a wonderful garden by composting horse manure.

When you are composting horse manure, you are creating a very rich plant fertilizer.

This plant fertilizer is great for grass but you will want to be careful about how much you put onto your plants when you are actually gardening.

If you put too much on at one time, your plants could easily burn.

Check out the free guide to composting horse manure for ideas on how to make your own compost pile.

What If You Have A Lot Of Manure To Compost?

Every horse owner knows that clean, easy to manage manure is a great way to run a horse stable. Burying it in a compost pile is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to dispose of manure. This not only avoids problems with odor and dangerous runoff, but it reduces labor and keeps your horse stall cleaner.

Compost piles are easy to make. Much like a compost bin, the system uses alternating layers of greens (fresh manure), browns (dried leaves), and moisture to create the perfect environment for composting. Moisture levels are controlled by adding only as much manure as the pile can incorporate. When you build a pile, add a thick layer of dried leaves or straw to the bottom to prevent the moisture from drying out before the compost is finished. This will depend on your location.

Next, add a thin layer of wet manure about an inch thick into the pile. Keep the pile about as wide as your wheelbarrow, and about three times as long. Add a thick layer of dried leaves or straw again to keep the moisture in.

How To Use Horse Manure

Horse manure is a prized ingredient in home and commercial gardeners' toolkit. It's a favorite for many reasons – including the benefits of an "organic approach" to gardening.

Not only is it a free, potent fertilizer that makes your soil healthier by adding organic matter, but it's also odor-free, easy to handle, and can help add structure to your soil and improve the health of your soil microbes … that means healthier plants and flowers.

So how can you use it around your yard and garden?

Horse manure is definitely not the right tool for everyone, because not everyone has access to free horse manure, but it's something to consider if you have horses and once it is available to you, you'll definitely want to get your hands on it.

Where To Get Horse Manure

First, there's the simple fact that horse manure is good for the garden and your plants will appreciate it. Horse manure goes through horses' digestive process, meaning the clean-up crew of bugs that carry plants' nutrients in their bodies have already done their work and there's a natural fertilizer for the plants all ready to go.

However, why is horse manure sometimes considered to be more hazardous to be around than other sources of manure and compost? The primary difference between horse manure and manure from the family barnyard or chicken shed is the fact horses carry a lot more dangerous diseases than the animals most likely to be living in a closed environment with humans (and hence spreading manure around the place).

Horse manure can sometimes contain the following:

{1}. Hexamita – This is a parasitic organism that harms humans similarly to the way tapeworms do.
{2}. Renneziasis – This is a helminth (worm) infection.
{3}. Eimeria – A protozoan parasite that attacks the horse’s intestine.