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Awww Horse-poo!

Raleigh, NC(Zone 8a)

Been awhile since I've had time to jump on here. I've never been able to get a "Composting for Dummies" book (seriously, I know zilch about what to do/how/when, etc.) But, I have a super good friend with a horse farm about 30 miles south of us who has offered as much horse poo as I want. She feeds them coastal hay and grain pellets. She has a large pile of poo, whereby half of it is already aged at least 2-4 years. I picked up a load in an old trashcan last weekend, and she's offered to load some more in her "dooly" for me when she's heading up next and drop off. My hubby and I can also go and get some when we can as well since he has a truck. My yard has a LOT of red clay ... you can only dig about 6 inches down before hitting that mess. Where I've planted things around the yard, I've dug out the clay and back-filled with store-bought soil. Most things are growing well; however, after seeing how much bigger, better, and healthier plants grow with poo as fertilizer, I want to get a good layer down to help not only the plants by my lawn.

So, I know I have a great line on an endless supply of poo. I'm blessed, I know. But what can/should I do with it, and how? Since it's aged, can I just go ahead and spread it around my plants (e.g., gardenias, bananas, hibs, cannas, primarily), or do I need to do anything else to it first? Should I dig it into the soil? I did notice some grubs in it when I was shoveling last weekend, so I'm guessing I should sprinkle some moth flakes around with it when I spread it so they don't attack my plants.

Is fall an okay time of year to put down some poo on plants? Seriously, any and all help/suggestions/etc with how to use it would be most appreciated! I hate to see it sitting on her farm going to waste, so to speak, as she does not garden at all. The one pile she has is from her 4-horse barn, but she neighbors with another horse farm that she works on, where they have about 80 or so horses, so I can get as much as I want/need. What I don't want to do is have a ton of horse poo dropped on my property with no idea of what to do with it.

Thanks much, in advance, for your help!

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Jennifer, I didn't want you to wait too long for at least a partial answer. You'll read below how to use aged horse manure (mainly as a fertilizer, alone or mixed with compost.) I'm sure there are others on this forum who can expand of this advice--once the Thanksgiving activities calm down!
One thing NOT to do is sprinkle any moths flakes around. These are strong chemicals--poisons really-- and are not healthy to put in any soil where you will be growing things, especially veggies. And your grubs MAY not be bad in themselves. If you could describe them precisely, maybe someone else could help identify them.
Regarding putting down fertilizer now; I don't fertilize beds and shrubs in the fall (just spread compost around them) but I know folks who do sprinkle fertilizer around earlier in the fall when the ground is still warm enough for the roots to take it up. The problem is that fertilizer CAN encourage new growth in the Fall which will then get frozen off in winter's cold temps. Although if you can grow cannas, bananas, and gardenias you must not have freezes! Aged horse manure is more organic and slower to break down--maybe someone else can give you better advice than I, especially for your growing zone.
Anyway, lucky you to have such a great source nearby!

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Jennifer, congrats on your manure source. You'll surely benefit from it.

And ditto what CapeCod said about the moth flakes, you don't want those in your ground/garden. Those grubs may be beneficial or, on the other hand, they may be Jap beetles (often the case with large expanses of grass, as in a horse pasture).

In our area you can safely apply the manure at this time. It will increase microbial life in your soil and also offer a slow-release plant/soil food, which is what you want to aim for. You can either spread it lightly around your plants or gently scratch it in, being careful with plants that have shallow root systems.

I don't know if you have 100% poop or what some of us call "stable sweepings". If the latter that is mixed with saw dust or other wood chips from the horse stalls and is best used very well broken down/aged. And don't worry, if you get "a ton of horse poo dropped on my property with no idea of what to do with it" you can always designate an area for it to stockpile it/compost it and have it to draw from on an as-needed basis.

Lastly, the link to the article CapeCodGardener gave is full of inaccuracies so I wouldn't take much stock in it. (Sorry, CapeCod, no offense meant.)

Happy Gardening!

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Shoe, thanks for the updates and corrections. I was really hoping someone more expert would be inspired to help Jennifer.
And I concur; I wish I had her problem! The best thing would be for her to find a nice place to stockpile the horse-poo, letting it compost further while she uses it up.
Any passer-by or neighbor with an ounce of compost-sense would recognize that pile as a thing of beauty! ;-)

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Hehehe, yep, "that pile as a thing of beauty"! Perfectly well said!

CCGardener, I don't think I was correcting you, just adding to what you already said. It's true that applying fertilizers in fall will encourage too much new (and tender) growth but that is often the chemical ferts which are highly water soluble; as you mentioned also the aged horse poop will slowly break down, not quite being such a bazooka as the quicker-working ferts.

Jennifer is probably 30-60 minutes from me so I'm familiar with her weather/temps, etc. And boy-howdy have we been having a fairly warm winter, so far anyway.

I spread some horse manure last week in part of my garden, gonna just let it sit in the furrows and break down over winter. I was also happy to have enough to put in some compost bins along with the bean vines and the spent tomato plants I pulled out of the garden. And today I'm kinda glad it's wet and rainy or I'd be out there shoveling more, and I need the break! :>)


Raleigh, NC(Zone 8a)

Thanks so much for the comments to you both! I know I'm lucky to have this "problem". :-)

I've been told by a few people that sprinkling moth flakes will help rid my yard of the grubs which have killed many of my azaleas and one gardenia in the last few years. When I was shoveling the horse poo, I noticed a lot of grubs in it as well, so I didn't want to add to the previous problems I'd had. What about the moth flakes makes them bad for the yard? I didn't notice any problems with the grass or plants that seemed like it was bad for them.

The manure is mixed with stable sweepings, but she beds her stables with hay vs. wood chips. The stuff I shoveled to bring home is the black looking decomposed good stuff from the back of her pile, aged between 3 & 4 years.

Here's a pic of the top of the bin.

Thumbnail by jlj072174
Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Jennifer, I just wouldn't mess with adding the chemicals that exist in mothballs, be it napthalene or something different (see the last paragraph of the Wikipedia article below.) My principle is not to add chemicals or pesticides until I know exactly what I'm trying to accomplish. Your grubs may not be destructive, and until you know more, you're putting down something in your garden that is potentially harmful--be it to small animals, children, or your soil--and may not really be effective anyway.
I did have Japanese Beetle grubs in my lawn and soil, which ARE a pest, and I put down milky spore three years ago in my lawn. Haven't had any since. You can probably see some lovely ;-) pictures of these on Dave's Garden Bug Files.

Raleigh, NC(Zone 8a)

Thanks much for the suggestion of Milky Spore, CCG. I'll look into that for grub control going forward. I don't know that what I have are the japanese beetle grubs or not -- whatever they are, I've seen them on the roots of my azalea & gardenia plants that are no longer with us. The grubs are big & thick little buggers ... about an inch or more long & about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch thick, curled up in a "C" ... they're gross, and my gag reflex takes over every time I see them. :-(

North Ridgeville, OH(Zone 5b)

Is this your culprit?

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Jennifer, those grubs sound nasty (they also sound a lot like Jap. Beetle grubs, but I didn't know that they attacked azaleas.) I did google "grubs on azalea roots" and came up with a couple of hits. There's something called "black vine weevil" that starts as grubs on the roots, and sometimes "girdles" the plant and destroys it, before it turns into bugs that chew azalea and rhodo leaves. Here's an article from UC Davis.

I also found a hit from an 1888 gardening book which stated that grubs growing in manure are NOT usually black vine weevil grubs that eat azaleas, because the weevil wouldn't have laid her eggs there, but rather at the base of the azalea/rhodo shrub itself. Don't know if this info is outdated ;-) but that's what I saw.

I bet those grubs that you see in your already somewhat composted horse manure ARE Japanese Beetle grubs (because I saw some in my compost pile.) I see that Puddle Pirate has helpfully found a photo for you.

You can also google "milky spore" on the net and find out a lot about it. Once applied, it often lasts for years.

Man, I am certainly no expert on all of this, but your questions caught my interest!

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

whether or not its Jap beetles grubs, or black vine weevil, I am pretty sure milky spore would not know the difference one beetle grub to another. Since you found them right in with the roots of azaleas and gardeneia, then lost those, it seems logical you will want to treat right there, for grubs. Look into Milky Spore directions; I researched it once about fall lawn care and beleive you have to apply in spring.
All beetles would go through similar life stages and I think its very hard for us to tell which is which adult.

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Sally G is right, at least according to an article I found (see below) which deals with milky spore--there is some evidence that it can also control other white grubs. The article is valuable, IMHO, because it discusses a lot of the available "science," as well as when to apply and how often. The upshot is that milky spore works better in some areas more than others--I guess I have the right combination in my garden, because I haven't seen a Jap. Beetle in three years (after a huge infestation prior to MS.)
Please keep us posted on what you try.

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Gosh, we're all over on those pesky grubs attacking you, Jennifer!

My first thought is Jap Beetles, mainly cus they're more abundan/prevalent in large expanses of lawn, or pasture in the case of the source of your manure.

I'm not familiar w/black vine weevils but tend to agree w/you CapeCod that the grubs in the manure are most likely not black vine larva. I am a bit familiar with Azalea twig borers though, and those are in our area. The adults will lay eggs on azalea stems, then the larva will move underground and feed on the roots. Unfortunately I've never seen what the larvae/grubs look like, only the tell-tell above-ground damage of the grubs on twigs (they leave little holes and scars).

Jennifer, if you have neighbors with large yards/large expanses of lawn, open fields, etc, maybe you can all go in together and get a wholesale order of Milky Spore. Usually it's best if the whole neighborhood uses it otherwise their Jap beetles will end up at your house whether you've treated your soil or not.


Raleigh, NC(Zone 8a)

Thanks much, everyone! The pics of the Japanese beetle grubs look almost identical, but I don't recall the ones I saw in the horse poo having the brown head on them; I could be mistaken though. As for the grubs that attacked my gardenia & azaleas, I only remember that they were white (not sure if they had a brown 'face' on them or what). My neighbor suggested spreading a light layer of moth flakes around the plants then watering, so I did, and it seemed to help the plants a lot. I didn't think about what might have been in the flakes that could be harmful.

Right now, the horse poo is in a trash can/barrel by my house. I'm curious, Do grubs hibernate, that if I spread some of the poo around now, they would either die off due to cold exposure (our highs the next couple days are in the mid/low 40s, and the lows are in the 20s), or should I get some milky spore now and sprinkle it on the poo directly if I put some down now, or even into the barrel itself before spreading it?

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

The most direct thing is get a picture of a "grub' and post it on Insect and Spider ID forum. No use spending energy on a grub if it is a fly larva, for example.

Raleigh, NC(Zone 8a)

I used some of the horse poo today around a few plants, and managed to get a picture of one of the grubs. It looks like they are in fact the japanese beetle grubs. ICK!

I tossed them over the fence and the birds were most thankful! They swooped down and gobbled them up!

Thumbnail by jlj072174
Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

But, but...Jennifer, don't you realize how tasty those grubs are when roasted or batter fried? What a delicacy you're giving up! :>)

Hope it is snowing over your way...we have enough to throw snowballs (sorta!)


Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Yes it is a grub.
The size grub you described earlier sounds much too big for Japanese beetles but I'll admit I don't have the specs right in front of me. I have found huge enormous black beetles in my rotten wood which have huge grubs.
I once had a catbird checking out my compost when I'd turn it. Smart birds.

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

When I first encountered Japanese Beetle grubs in my compost pile I was completely grossed out. Still am by their horrid looks, in fact. But my neighbor who keeps chickens persuaded me to toss the ones I was finding into a bucket for her chickens. I'd give her some every few days . Those chickens loved them, and I got some eggs! So I felt at least the grubs were good for something.

or should I get some milky spore now and sprinkle it on the poo directly if I put some down now, or even into the barrel itself before spreading it?

Jennifer, as I under the process with milky spore, it is a naturally-occuring organism in some soils (but not all, and that's why folks like me purchased it)
and what is does is infect various white grubs, including Japanese Beetles, with a disease that eventually kills them. It takes time, and the right warm soil temperatures to work. That's why folks usually apply it in the summer or early fall. So I don't think it works like a a contact-pesticide that you could apply to the horse manure hoping to kill the grubs right away. It takes a few years.

Raleigh, NC(Zone 8a)

I'll keep my eyes posted for it next time I'm at the lawn & garden store, CGC. Thanks so much for the feedback/information.

I'm happy to toss the grubs to the birds when I come across them. They seemed appreciative, as am I to see them go away! :-)

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

a good grub article right here in DG

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I get a lot of pleasure by squoshing them and seeing the guts fly. I used to use a rock but not anymore.

Shoe, once again "YUCK" for what you call food. lol

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Thank you, SallyG--that article was very informative and explained very clearly about those horrid grubs--and their adult beetle form--that are so destructive.
I'm a fan of milky spore just because it worked well for me, at least for the past three years! But what I've learned as a gardener is how quickly things can change as weather and climate patterns very from year to year.

Lumberton, TX(Zone 8b)

One of my hens follows me as I turn the soil in the garden and feasts on the grubs. I doubt she gets them all, but she gets a lot and it's fun to watch. Good protein --- FOR THE CHICKENS.

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