Uses of Cow Manure in Gardening Q & A

Cow manure is an excellent, all-natural multipurpose fertilizer. This type of manure is gentle on young plants because it has a low nitrogen content, yet it also has a very good ratio of balanced nutrients.

In addition to all this, cow manure is usually virtually weed seed free because it has been put through the cows’ comprehensive, four stomach digestive system.

wheelbarrow of aged cow manurePin

While you might be worried about unpleasant odors when using manure as a fertilizer in your garden, this problem is usually prevented by the process followed when composting manures. 

For one thing, it is dried before it is added to any compost pile, bin, or another system. Additionally, the composting process results in high heat levels. For these reasons, fully composted and bagged cow manure that you might buy at your local gardening center will be virtually odor-free.

This article answers 17 of the most commonly asked questions about using manure in the garden. Read on to learn more.

Cow Manure Q & A

#1 – What Is The Difference Between Cow Manure And Steer Manure?

Both manures are organic materials but the salinity level is the main difference between steer manure and cow manure. Steer manure usually has higher salt levels than cow manure, so it may negatively impact your plants.

Another difference between cow and steer manure is the weed seed content. Steer manure usually has more weed seeds.

#2 – What Is Cow Manure Good For?

Cattle manure is an excellent addition to any composting project. You can use it as a fertilizer to give any garden plants a boost of nutrition. You can also use it as a soil amendment to improve the condition of your soil.

NOTE: When growing root crops add manure 4 months before planting to help reduce any potential bacterial contamination.

#3 – Is Cow Manure Safe?

Cow manure is pH balanced, so it is safe for most plants. In terms of pathogens, when used after composting, you can be certain that the heat involved in the composting process has killed off illnesses and pathogenic microorganisms along with weed seeds.

#4 – How Much Cow Manure Should I Add To My Garden?

Use a little under a pound of cow manure per square foot of area being treated. Apply the amendment to the soil’s surface and then till it to a depth of about 9″ inches. [source]

#5 – Can You Put Too Much Cow Manure In Your Garden?

If you add more than the recommended amount of manure to your garden, you may have trouble with excessive vegetation growth in and around the garden. Additionally, if you’re using steer manure, you’re more likely to have salt damage if you overdo it.

Furthermore, excessive manure added to the garden can cause environmental problems such as nutrient runoff and nitrate leaching. [source]

#6 – Which Vegetables Do Not Like Cow Manure?

Cow manure is good for all vegetables, but some heavy feeders (such as tomatoes) need extra applications throughout the growing season. Root veggies (such as potatoes and carrots) do not. 

Too much manure will provide them with unnecessarily high levels of nitrogen. Instead, you should provide your root vegetables with extra feedings of leaf compost, wood ashes, greensand or crushed granite to provide more potassium and phosphorus.

#7 – How Do I Prepare Cow Manure For My Garden?

You can use fresh cow manure at the end of the growing season (after you have harvested your crops) and allow it to compost on-site throughout the winter and into the spring. To do this, you should mix it with a lighter material (e.g., straw or leaves) and apply it as a mulch for tilling in when spring arrives.

You can also fully cure cow manure by composting it in a compost bin or pile. Cow manure counts as a green ingredient to compost, so be sure to balance it out with brown ingredients as described in our article. [LINK]

#8 – Can I Replace Compost For Cow Manure?

Fresh cow manure and cured compost are not interchangeable. You might use a small amount of fresh cow manure as a side dressing in an ornamental garden setting where it will not contact the plants’ roots or stems. For the most part, cow manure should be composted before being added to the garden.

#9 – Is Chicken Manure Better Than Cow Manure?

Chicken manure is very rich and very hot. It should never be applied directly to the garden bed as it is very likely to burn roots and stems as it decomposes. Instead, add chicken manure to your composting project as a green ingredient.

Cow manure is not quite as hot as chicken manure, but take care when using raw cow manure, as mentioned in questions 8 and 9.

#10 – What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Using Cow Manure As The Only Fertilizer?

On the upside, cow manure is very high in nutrients. It’s all-natural, and this organic matter can improve the quality of your soil in a way that is simply not possible with synthetic fertilizers.

Another advantage aged manure has over synthetic fertilizers is that its nutrients are naturally slow released. Therefore, consistently amending your soil with cow manure provides a steady flow of nutrition to your plants.

On the downside, it takes some time to use cow manure. It should be composted first, and this is a several months process. This can cause you to feel impatient, especially when you compare it with chemical fertilizers, which often seem to deliver almost instantaneous results.

You must be aware that chemical fertilizers often tend to act like candy for your plants. It may give them a boost of energy and growth, but this doesn’t last, and it doesn’t contribute to the health of the plants. Natural fertilizer such as cow manure will help you grow naturally strong, healthy, pest and disease-resistant plants.

#11 – Is Cow Manure Good For Tomatoes?

Cow manure is excellent for tomatoes which are heavy nitrogen feeders.

#12 – How Long Does Cow Manure Need To Compost?

Composted correctly, your composting materials should heat up to a temperature of 130 to 140°F. In ideal conditions, this can happen within 24 hours. Once the pile has been thoroughly heated and cooled, you can turn it (or transfer it in the case of a bin).

However, it may take between 2 and 6 months to complete the curing or decomposition process, depending on weather conditions.

#13 – How Do You Put Manure In Your Garden?

Once you’ve properly composted cow manure, carry it to your garden a month before planting time. Spread it evenly over the soil’s surface at a rate of about 40 pounds of cured manure per hundred feet of garden soil. Once the cow manure or compost is spread evenly over the ground, till it in to a depth of about 9″ inches.

#14 – Is Cow Manure Safe For Vegetable Gardens?

Thoroughly and properly composted cow manure is safe for vegetable gardens. Raw cow manure is probably not. Fresh manure applied directly to the garden bed less than 3 months before harvest is likely to transfer Escherichia coli (E. coli) to the soil. This can dangerously contaminate vegetables.

#15 – Can You Mix Manure With Potting Soil?

You can enrich and extend potting mix by combining it with thoroughly composted, sifted cow manure. It can also be used as a top dressing for potted and container plants.

#16 – Can You Mix Manure With Compost?

You can add cow manure to your compost heap, either fresh or dried. If you add fresh cow manure to the pile, you’ll want to cover it with a brown material such as straw, dried leaves, or shredded newspaper, which will help reduce any odor problems.

When you introduce the manure to the compost heap, it’s best to leave it in a layer. Then, mix it in when you turn the heap.

#17 – Can You Quickly Make Cow Manure Into Plant Food?

You can make cow manure tea which you can pour directly onto the soil or apply as a foliar spray. To make this concoction, fill a bucket or other container about a third of the way with fresh cow manure.

Then, fill in the rest of the way with fresh water. Allow the mixture to sit and settle for about 24 hours and then pour through a strainer to remove most solids.

More on making Manure Tea

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