Old Horse Manure

Newport, TN(Zone 7a)

My neighbor kept horses until about a year or so ago. The barn was never cleaned out and is full of Poop. I can have all I want for free. It has decomposed to where it is mostly powdery and very few individual pieces,there is no odor of manure,only an earthy smell. Since my dirt is clay, I need all the amendments I can get. My raised beds have a mixture of clay, purchased compost added soil and homemade compost. Can I use this old manure to add directly to my beds now, mixing in with some more homemade compost and letting it sit til planting time in May?

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

You lucky so-an-so, how I envy you having all the horse manure you want, I would take this offer by both hands, get to work and lay it on all the garden you can, IF possible, make the layers about 3-4 inches or if you can dig, then mix the manure into the soil as you go, If the stable aint being used / pulled down etc, then make sure you get to return next year for the rest of the stuff you cant use this year.

What this manure will do is add structure to the clay soil, add air, help break up the small particles of clay that make this type of soil so easy to dry out in hot weather, and it stay cold wet in cooler rainy seasons, this will help prevent these conditions but, over time, it wont happen in a day or so, the manure also adds nutrients that will help feed the plants ,shrubs or veg you wish to grow.

As you describe the no smell and the texture of the manure, this is exactly how it should be for use, if it smelled this indicates the poop has not rotted down enough therefore perhaps causing the poop to burn the roots or tender parts of the plants, the earthy smell is exactly right too, remember horses eat grass, grains or whatever so unlike other 4 legged animals who have meat, fish, chicken diets, the horse poop is natural / green, where there is a chance of this manure burning our plants, this is due to the horse Urine which is mixed in with the poop, but this is also broken down as the poop de-composes so all natural stuff.

Good luck, wish I had a neighbour like you. enjoy the gardening year and hope as the season goes forward you will soon notice the difference in the garden soil you work with.
Best wishes, WeeNel.

Clinton, IN

Weenel isright, that is about the best stuff you can get to improve your garden. If there is more than you want to put on your garden now and you have the time and engery you could pile it up in a out of the way spot to use later. Good luck, Fred

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

That is what I filled all my veg beds with many years ago!
Vegies grew great!

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

Wished I lived closer!!! ;)

Solomons, MD

You may want to try and determine if the horses were on veterinarian meds and/or what they ate. There is growing concern about unhealthy or toxic stuff in vegetable gardens from previously good composts or manures. Don't know if this is a fairly new awareness or not. See mother earth news, february/march 2013, pg. 14 Killer Compost update. Just something to be aware of. Good luck.............

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

Lucky, lucky you! This is well-rotted horse manure, what gardeners everywhere dream of. Can't you just feel the green glow of envy in every word on these posts?!!! (Lol, of course)


Newport, TN(Zone 7a)

Thanks to all for responding!! I plan to take advantage of a beautiful weekend here in east TN to load up my wheel barrow as many times as I can. WeeNel, thank you for such detailed instructions, I probably would not have used enough if not for your advice.
Doublecc, you bring up an interesting point. I have wondered about the same thing in the bags of manure that you get from any of the big retail stores: Where does this poop come from, and what kind of drugs/chemicals etc are being consumed by the animals? Luckily, I know the 2 horses my neighbor used to keep were in good health and in the 3 years they were here didn't have any medications. Yay!
Funny, most people would not be happy to be in close proximity to a large pile of poo. Lucky me! This same neighbor has a vegetable garden, but prefers to buy fertilizers and insecticides to garden in what she feels is the 'right' way. Fine with me, she is happy to get rid of the mess in the barn and I am happy to take it to my yard and garden my 'right' way.
I am hoping that adding this manure to my flower beds will make a difference. The soil is so clay-ey and there are big chunks of some flakey type of crumbly rock. Zinnias, sunflowers,cosmos,and other annuals grown from seeds did nicely the first year, but the next year, they were disappointing to say the least. I don't think weather was a factor, since it was about the same, but maybe the dirt is "tired" and adding manure and homemade compost will make a difference this year.

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Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

Bagged manure in the stores is almost always steer manure from feed lots.
1) High salt content.
2) Possible medications

Horse manure:
Horses are generally wormed monthly with a rotation of products. Ask your neighbor what she used and how often. Ivermectin is common, and related materials, but it is not usually the only ingredient. Horses are subject to a wide range of intestinal parasites, and no one product gets all the parasites.
I do not know how well these materials break down once they are excreted. Any wormers with insecticidal properties break down pretty fast. Manure from horses treated with these worming agents will grow flies.

There are some specialty products designed to pass through the horses' digestive tracts and stay in the manure long enough to reduce the fly population. If this sort of product was used, I would want to make sure that ALL the manure was subject to a hot (fast) compost, in hopes that temperature might break down this material, then followed by a very long slow compost, in hopes that if the heat did not get to it, then it will age and break down. I sure would not want this active ingredient in a vegetable garden! Hint: If there are flies in the compost pile, then this material is probably not there any more.

Brayton, IA(Zone 5a)

I agree Diana however you can't look a gift horse in the mouth. Free poo is free poo maybe have a sample tested if there is a concern? Then again that might be more expensive than just buying your compost. Getting tougher and tougher finding things without man made chemicals , quite a shame.

Alpharetta, GA

Along the same topic, I can purchase some aged horse manure from Craig's List.... Initially they were asking $15 per 40 lb. bag but just lowered the price to $10 per 40 lb bag. Is this a good price? I'm new to gardening and am not ever really sure of what is a good deal vs. expensive. Even if it is a good deal, I can't buy enough to cover all of my flower beds in the 3-4 inches of it but I could use it strategically... I was going to get 3 bags, now maybe 5...


Clinton, IN

jssmeltzer, Sounds really high to me, around here you can usualy get horse manure free if you load it. Fred

Leawood, KS(Zone 5b)

Scarletbean, I also envy you. I drive 20 miles to a stable to haul home 5 gallon buckets of horse manure for my garden - I make the trip several times in the fall, using the manure to amend the soil in my annual beds (I've added 3-4" of horse manure each fall, before having the beds tilled) before planting bulbs. When I started, the soil was very heavy clay. After several years of working in the horse manure, my soil is light and easily worked. The bulbs don't need the nutrients, but the annuals do great!. I've never concerned myself with the meds the horses at this stable receive, because I don't grow vegetables.

I also use horse manure as a topdressing in my shade garden. Each fall I have the lawn maintenance crew save my ground up leaves for me to spread on the bed. Then I apply a topdressing of manure, allowing it to 'settle in' over the winter and the rain and snow break it down. By spring, the crocus and other plants in the bed come up through the decomposing leaves and manure.

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central, NJ(Zone 6b)


Newport, TN(Zone 7a)

Boy oh boy! I went ahead and dug in about 3 inches of manure in 2 of my veg beds over the last 2 days and what a big difference! the soil is lighter and fluffier and just feels better. These are 3 4'x8' raised beds filled with a mix of my own clay, 'garden mix with compost' from a landscape co. (purchased by the scoop) and my own compost which is mostly kitchen scraps, and some grass clippings and leaves. Diana_K - I got a used ComposTumbler last year. (The 'garden mix' had some pretty big lumps of red clay and our own tan colored clay which I broke up by hand, ugh! They promised me it was 'organic' and the price was right..) I added two 5 gal. buckets of fresh manure from the same horses and it wasn't long before there was evidence of the flies from the barn:big maggots. I worried about them in there at first, since I only put veg matter in the composter, except for egg shells, and thought i might have messed it all up. The heat must have killed them, as i never had to shoo flies away, and one day they were gone. SO, i dont think there was any insecticide type wormer being used. Also, it has been sitting for over a year in a barn that is about to fall down any minute. The horses were better protected by the trees. Your information is very valuable, and now I know what questions to ask when I need to get poo from other sources. IowaGardening- I think there is a great joke forming about looking a gift horse in the mouth, the gift being manure, perhaps looking
said horse from the other end!! haha. Jssmeltzer- that price does sound a bit high, but only from my cheapskate perspective. If it is delivered or you like the idea of buying from a person rather than a corporation,then maybe the price is good. If you have time and the transportation, pack a shovel and some buckets and go for a drive in the country. If you see cows,horses,sheep, etc, stop and talk to the owner. I have done this and have never been turned down. I always offer cash or a trade for some of the flowers or veggies from my garden. Just be sure to wear old shoes.!
LeawoodGardener- what a lovely display! Those impatiens seem to sparkle.Youmust be the envy of the neighborhood. I will try your leaf/manure layering in my flower beds this fall. I have always wanted to do a bulb garden, and yours are so inspiring. The tulips remind me of the multi colored sprinkles on a cupcake..yummy.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

It would seem that the going price on horse manure ranges from $3 to $15 per 50 lb sack

But, being in Alpharetta, I would check out this link...the price is FREE


Newport, TN(Zone 7a)

Wow! what a great resource! This is why I love DG. The money I have saved from tips and advice not to mention the boatload of seeds and plants I have received in trades, has paid for my membership many, many times over. Plus, I get better yields and results from what I grow. Win, win win.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Nice feeling isn't it? Grin

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi scarletbean, so glad all your hard work has shown great improvements already, you must be thrilled, just remember not to rush the garden, none were ever built or made in a day, it's a slow season to season improvement you want, in between, enjoying the results as you grow.

You should also notice how much easier it is to dig over your beds and less back-ache to boot, also a wider range of plants you can add to your collection as the years go by.
You can also add this manure in a layer about 3 inches deep in autumn and let the worms ect take it down into the soil, this mulch should help keep weeds away while you maybe let some of the veg beds rest till spring, and again, this helps make digging the beds easier each season, in very dry weather you can soak the beds and add an thin layer and the dressing will help prevent faster evaporation so there are lots of uses for this gardeners gold so long as it is well rotted.

Ask the horse owner to start a fresh pile each year so as while you use up last years manure as it has had time to rot down, this fresh stuff will be separate from the ready to use stuff, and each year you will have a new supply of ready made manure.

Good luck and enjoy your new found friend in the garden, WeeNel.

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