A friend has a neighbor that is letting me come pick up horse manure from her paddock. I have tubs and used most of the "older" areas and now am working my way into deeper and somewhat newer poo/straw. The manure is dark, doesn't smell too badly but I am hesitant about using these next batches directly in my gardens.
I have two compost bins in different stages of decomposition. Currently have no green material (other than kitchen scraps) but oodles of dead leaves. Can I effectively mix shredded leaves with the horse manure and layer that intermitently with the partially finished compost? I can't see it heating up much but I need to use the horse poo while I have access to it (farm is on the market).
I have used copious amounts of fresh horse manure in the past and now have gone to some well aged cow manure with straw mixed in. The horse manure was applied directly to the garden in the fall and tilled into the soil until most of the biscuits were incorporated. An additional fall tilling was made after a rain and the garden was dry enough to till again. Although it took several passes on the second tilling, the majority of the horse manure was pretty well mixed into the soil. Later in the spring I would till once again making several passes and there was no evidence of the biscuits remaining. I have added way more horse manure than I thought I could possibly get away with, but I never had any problems with over fertilizing using the multiple tillings. I believe the ammonical content of the fresh horse manure is dissipated with each tilling to the point where most of what is left is organic nitrogen.
The other thing I did was to compost the horse manure in an outdoor compost bin using red wigglers. It certainly doesn't hurt to add ground up leaves, etc., to expedite the process. It takes quite a bit of turning and watering to eventually break down the mass to a fine granular substance. Once broken down I added a shovel full of the composted horse manure to the holes I dug for tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins.
I can never shovel enough manure (cow,horse,chicken) to provide my needs in the compost pile. I mix manure 3 parts (N manure) or more to one of shredded leaves, plant etc (Carbon). After only 3 months even the hottest manure is now perfect compost. Better than the bagged compost and you only need to put an inch on the soil and the worms become alive and create millions more. (each shovel full of compost is filled with hundreds. I make over 6 finished yards of compost each year for my gardens. (3 acres)
I thought I was waiting six months for the native soil orgs to overthrow and wipe out the poopy orgs, so to speak; for E coli to die off. Should I stick with that sixmonths thing on edibles?
Ecoli are very short lived in any dry, oxygen rich environment. I use my compost and manure in my garden. One it takes 2 to 3 months to get fruit and two the Irrigation I use continually wash the fruit and drive bacteria competing with them into death. Bacterias only live where they thrive. Ecoli lives in the gut and feces. Looking for pathologic coliforms is looking for freshly spred manure on rapidly growing crops. This is not fact only common sense of a veterinarian.
sallyg, you're more apt to run into pathogens (from human feces) in store bought produce than horse or cow manure which has been aged or composted. Fresh horse manure takes a while to break so I apply it to the garden only in the fall and till it a number of times both fall and spring to get the clumps or buckets out. I have some well composted horse manure which was broken down using red wigglers, lots of turnings and warm water. Took most of the summer but this bin has lots of fine composted manure which works nicely in potted plants and holes dug for tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins. Never had a problem with over application, and like Dean says don't be concerned about the bad Ecoli. Most of the bad pathogen stories we here about in the news are simply improper sanitation of the workers in the field and the handling of the produce. There has been much written about composted horse manure in past DG threads and my concerns about using this material have all been addressed.
sally as an old environmentalist I can assure you health is a prime concern of mine as well, and while on the subject I would point out that many products sold today as compost include some wastewater sludge in them. I don't care how you look at it I would never use this material in a home garden. The word 'synergy' just about sums up the possibilities for deadly compounds which can be formed in these sludges. Although EPA requires testing for nine or ten heavy metals and about half a hundred volatile organic compounds to consider this material save for applications to corn, soybeans, and various other commercial crops, this by no means makes this material safe for the home gardener. I can personally attest to some horror stories of compounds created by two or more relatively safe materials which can occur in wastewater and under the right conditions produce toxic materials.
Do any of you have concerns about the herbicides that are used on animal feed and passed through into their manure?
Our local radio gardening host says he won't use it in a garden now that there is actually a systemic version. He says the only way to get rid of it is to actually remove the soil. My personal experience has been that where I have put round hay bales the only thing that grow there is grass. I'm just wondering. It obviously can't be considered organic if it contains commercial strength herbicides or pesticides which all manure does, unless it's grass fed on your own land.
I no longer use horse manure or hay from sources that use persistent herbicides for weed control; such herbicides end up on the animal's manure, and if applied to your garden soil can result in herbicide damaged plants for up to 3 years.
Even if your source of horse manure is "safe", I would compost it thoroughly (~160 degrees) to kill weed seeds and pathogens.
Gone are the days when one could just add whatever inputs were handy - too many contaminates to worry about both herbicide and pharmaceutical. I'm shifting to green cover crops and leaf mold for soil improvement...