How to use Horse manure as Fertilizer
Horse manure is actually a really great fertilizer that you can use in your garden at home. But there's plenty to think about before starting. Here are my best tips on how to use horse manure as fertilizer, in the first post of my new series about this topic.
I have been thinking so much about horse manure lately. You might not believe it from the smell alone, but it's actually really fun to work with! In the past, I only used a bag here and there and only went all in with it in my hotbeds. But things are going to be different now!
I'm starting a new little blog series about how to use horse manure as fertilizer in your garden. Check it out!
Composted horse manure is such a great and gentle fertilizer. Since it's often mixed with some type of straw (which isn't very nutrient-rich from the start, it mainly adds texture), then you don't have to worry about getting too many nutrients in one hit when it's all composted and ready to use in the garden. That's just one of the reasons why horse manure is such a great fertilizer - you can't really overdo it.
So, what is it like to use? Well, it's more or less the texture of regular soil when composted. The composting process is really quick and really gives the beds a huge boost. Especially the first year. After that, you need to keep adding more so that the worms and microbes can keep on thriving in your beds.
A lot of people use horse manure in their hotbeds. They simply use a fresh pile of manure to create a new bed that generates heat. You can start growing on top of the pile even if it's cold outside. You will probably be done with the hotbed by the end of summer, when the fertilizer is completely composted and can be used to improve the soil in other sections of your garden.
Finding and getting manure
Horse manure is fairly easy to work with, especially composted manure. It's so convenient in a smaller garden. Perhaps you only have a few pallet collars and beds after all, which makes the process really manageable. Horse manure works great in a larger garden too. It just requires a bit more work to move it all around.
Where do you find the horse manure then? Well, why not just call your nearest horse owner, riding school or stable and ask if you can have a couple of bags. Make sure to use big bags to transport the manure in your car though. You don't want manure all over the trunk of your car after all. A few trips is all you need to get enough manure for your entire garden.
If you have a larger area to cover, then you could always arrange to have the manure delivered to your house. Perhaps in exchange for a bag of fresh homegrown vegetables later in summer? I know that a lot of horse owners can help you out.
Fresh or composted manure?
Beginners should definitely start with composted manure. The reason why might need some further explanation:
Horse manure is most often mixed with some type of straw or shavings, that was used as bedding for the horses. This bedding is often made of regular straw, wood chips or peat. These materials contain a lot of carbon but no actual nutrients that the soil can use. The opposite, actually. Straw, peat and wood chips need energy from another source in order to decompose. This energy comes from the urine and feces in the pile of manure. Your soil can actually become less nutrient-rich if you use fresh manure mixed with the bedding materials right in your beds. This is because the energy required for the decomposing might be drawn from the soil instead. It sounds strange, I know! Your vegetables won't grow nearly as well in soil with fewer nutrients of course.
The bedding materials are not just nuisance though. They actually give the soil a really nice texture. Just make sure that you either use composted manure or add some other nitrogen-rich fertilizer if you decide to go for fresh manure.
It's not entirely easy to know everything from the beginning of course. That's why I think that the easiest path simply is to start with the composted manure. Or, fresh manure that doesn't contain any bedding material. I have a picture of the latter a bit further down in this post.
How to use horse manure - 3 Tips
Pallet collar beds
If you want to create new pallet collar beds, manure is the right way to go. Simply fill the pallet collars with manure instead of soil. I think that it's quite unnecessary to use expensive store-bought soil for these types of beds. Especially if you make a raised one with two pallet collars on top of each other. Instead, why don't you fill the collars with manure or plant material and then just top it off with a layer of soil. The material in your pallet collars will turn into new soil with time. Watch this video below and just replace the material with horse manure.
You can use the horse manure for your large pots, barrels or other types of larger containers. Just do the same thing as you did with the pallet collars. Fill your container of choice with manure and add a layer of soil on top, that you can sow or plant in. Try to use pots with holes in the bottom, so that the worms and microbes can make their way to the pot and speed up the process.
If you composted the horse manure well, then the texture should be light. This is of course a bit different from fresh manure which is often filled with straw and generally quite lumpy. Adding and raking manure is easy when it's been composted though. Some books on gardening suggest that you should mix the composted manure with soil before using it. I don't think that's necessary if it was composted well though. You might not want the top layer to consist of manure when you direct-sow in your beds. Then I recommend digging a little ditch in the middle of the bed and filling it with manure instead. After that, you can just add regular soil to the rest of your bed.
Composted horse manure can be a bit difficult to find at times. Usually, it's right at the bottom of the pile. I got around four tons of horse manure this year, but it's fresh. The next part in this series about how to use horse manure in your garden is going to be about just that, fresh horse manure and how to use it.
Let me know if you have any questions about manure, and comment below. I'm going to pick a few of them and answer them in depth in the last part of this article series. Thank you for reading!