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Old December 6, 2016   #1
Merediana
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Default Beginners question: Horse manure

I've never added any manure to my garden (it has only been in use for 2 seasons) so I don't have a clue if I can use it, when and how much I should use it etc...

I have the possibility to get my hands on fresh horse manure, it's NOT mixed with normal straw because the horses are allergic, they use this kind of shredded, all natural flax straw. But it would be totally possible to get mostly manure with not much of the flax straw mixed in.

Any thoughts about that?
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Old December 6, 2016   #2
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In my opinion all manure needs to be thoroughly composted before using on a vegetable garden. Hot, or fresh manure has the possibility of spreading disease and can be full of weed seeds. Fresh manure can also be high in nitrogen and could burn plants. Composted, or at least a year old manure is quite beneficial by the addition of organics to the soil. There are some manures that are not hot when fresh, like llama poop.

While beneficial to the soil, manure can be harmful if you are not careful. Spreading now, tilling in and letting it age in the soil over winter may be OK, but I still would wait another season.
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Old December 6, 2016   #3
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Okay, in that case I'd rather not use it as I don't really have the possibility to let it age and don't want to use manure from animals that I don't know personally.
I know that one of the owners does use it in his vegetable garden he works it in during winter before the soil freezes and it seems to work for him...
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Old December 6, 2016   #4
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The generally accepted "rule" is that you need to let it age either in the soil or in the compost pile for 4 months before harvesting root crops and 3 months for above ground crops.
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Old December 6, 2016   #5
Merediana
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Ok, 3-4 months shouldn't be a problem there is still plenty of time from now on. I'm a bit hesitant... In general soilbuilding is like a mystery too me. I've read a few articles here and in my books but often they use products that I don't want to use...
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Old December 6, 2016   #6
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I garden organically so I don't use any synthetic products and they are not really necessary to achieve good soil or have a good garden.

I use compost that I make myself and I use natural mulches like straw or chopped leaves. I have a very productive garden and the soil has balanced nutrients based on my laboratory run soil tests.

I have a small coop with 12 chickens and I add their manure to my compost pile but I have also added horse manure in the past. Manure really heats up the compost pile and makes it decompose faster as well as adding nitrogen and other nutrients.
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Old December 6, 2016   #7
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Horse manure mixed with straw, pine shavings, saw dust or anything else can be added to your garden even if it has not been aged. It is better if it sits in piles and gets a bit heavy and gummy. I've been using it at all stages for decades. It is not hot even when fresh. All manure is not created equal. Horse manure should be looked at as a soil amendment and not a fertilizer. I work tons into my gardens in the fall. If the horses are on grass and weeds you will bring in some seed. The benefits far out-way any drawbacks. Till it in and reap the rewards.
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Old December 6, 2016   #8
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You can test for herbicide contamination by sprouting a bean seed in a cup of the manure before spreading it on your garden.

www.manurematters.com
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Old December 6, 2016   #9
Merediana
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Thanks
The owner makes his own hay (their food grows just a few meters away from my home) but since this year there is a corn field next to his property so yes, there might be a chance that herbicides went over to his grass...
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Old December 6, 2016   #10
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Horse manure has 10 pounds of organic nitrogen per ton of manure. Organic nutrients are unavailable until microbes (when temperatures are warm, like during the growing season) are present to move it into the available (called inorganic) form. This process is called mineralization. You will only get 20% of that 10 pounds in the first year, so you crop will get 2 pounds of actual Nitrogen for every 2,000 lbs you apply. If you do not work the manure in within 12 hours of applying it, you will lose about 4lbs of N per ton to volatilization (gassing off). You will still have to 10 lbs. of organic N though.
As far as N requirements for tomatoes, you need about 0.5 pounds of total N to grow a 4'x50' row. So, that would be 500 lbs of horse manure in that row to supply the needed N for one season, just using horse manure to supply your total N needs.
P and K are about 70-80% available in the first year, and that might more than cover those requirements depending on the starting levels of your soil.
Now, picturing 500 lbs. of manure on a 4'x50' area is probably way too much volume.
Probably best to add a fraction of that for some nutrients, the organic matter contribution, and microbial life. Add the rest through some other organic or inorganic fertilizer form that is more concentrated. Tell me what you want to use and I can tell you how much. Can be any combo of manure and fert.

Last edited by PureHarvest; December 6, 2016 at 04:42 PM.
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Old December 6, 2016   #11
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Thank you PH for your post above, "Horse manure has 10 pounds of organic nitrogen per ton of manure". You said a lot in those two paragraphs, that to me, were real eye openers. I hope to never stop learning and I truly thank you for your input. I still have much to learn. Thanks again.
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Old December 6, 2016   #12
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I'm always adding pieces too Dutch. Thanks for the kind words.
I am blessed in that I write nutrient mangament plans for farmers as part of my job.
I acknowledge that crop fertility is not an exact science but we have to go with some premises and guidelines.
I think the best thing someone can do to figure out the question of "how much fertilizer and what kind" can be answered with some relatively simple math. This can be done using organic materials like manure, organic ferts like alfalfa meal, or inorganic fert like 10-10-10 or 34-0-0.
The assumption that is made for the soil type in my area is that a tomato crop will need 120 lbs of nitrogen per crop, 0-100 lbs of phosphorus (amount needed is based on a soil test), and 0-300 lbs of potassium (also based on a soil test). The test at the lab I use reports results in plant available nutrients. Some people question soil tests and that the extraction methods don't mimic real soil solutions, but I think they come as close as we need them to in order to make sound decisions. Maybe some day we can get even closer, but for now it gives us a benchmark. Farmers can then build a history and track nutrient applications with yield.
All 3 elements are based on pounds of actual available elements per ACRE, so you have to scale it down to your growing area. Then you figure out how much actual elements are in your material and go from there.
If anyone gives me some numbers I can run through an example to show how you get there.
It might not be perfect, as many variables come into play, but it at least gives you a starting point with some reason behind it based on decades of trials. Most universities have a commercial crop recommendation guide that shows what each crop needs per year.
Just type in "Cornell commercial vegetable recommendation guide" into google, if you live in NY for example. Rutgers has one as does Penn State. I've looked at VA tech and Miss state too. Westerners would definitely find one from UC Davis I bet. You get the point on regionallity.
Finally, when you understand how the form of your "fertilizer" works, when it is available, and what load it carries, you can make a more responsible application to the land. This applies to both organic and inorganic ferts. They both can be leached, volatilized, run-off, and over applied. Organic doesn't imply safer and inorganic isn't automatically dangerous. It comes down to the 4 r's: right rate, right time, right placement, right form.

Last edited by PureHarvest; December 6, 2016 at 09:14 PM.
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Old December 6, 2016   #13
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While visiting dairy in Wisconsin the Farmer explained the process of his operation. He had many acres of corn which he fed the cows. The cows gave him milk and abundance of fertilizer for his fields. Cycle. I know it's simple but it was news to me, non farmer. I guess it made more sense to see it in person. I gained much appreciation for our farmers and their ability to feed the nation and provide for other countries as well. Thanks farmers!
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Old December 6, 2016   #14
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Just dont eat the stuff.

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Old December 7, 2016   #15
Merediana
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Worth1 View Post
Just dont eat the stuff.

Worth
Well, if you ask the dogs here it must be delicious Luckily mine doesn't touch it...

PureHarvest, thank you so much for your answer That sounds really interesting...
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