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75 - 80% Manure Content

15 years ago

Hi again,

Thank you for responding to my compost question.

I went to the compost place and just got back. They have two piles - they have one pile of composted materials that are not fully decomposed yet that is mostly leaves.

The other pile they have is all decomposed and has been sitting on the lot for a few years. This pile consisted of 75-80% manure and then they mixed in some other compost (leaves) into the pile.

If I use the straight 75 - 80% manure mix, what kind of ramifications will this produce?

The 75 - 80% manure mix is extremely friable, light, and looks really good - although I will need to sift it since it has some big particles in it.

Just wondering which mix I should use for my containers - the stuff still decomposing or the manure mix.

I plan to grow carrots, radishes, onions, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, peas, tomatoes, and bell peppers in this mixture.

Thank you!

Comments (33)

  • 15 years ago

    Use whatever composted materials you can find. Technically you would want to diversify more by augmenting with other composts, but go with your budget. You may be lacking in certain nutrients, but you can fix that later.

    Good luck

  • 15 years ago

    Thank you, sinfonian.

    Do you believe this mix is going to be too rich for the veggies - and cause more leafy growth than actual veggie growth - or cause any other problems like scorching the plants or causing them to kill off quicker?

    I don't want to go back and get a huge truckload to fill the containers when it might cause more harm than good.

    Thank you!

  • 15 years ago

    If it has actually been composting for more than a year, definitely go with the manure mix. You will have Ginormous veggies!

  • 15 years ago

    I don't have the experience to say if you would get more leaf growth than veggie growth. That would be good for greens though, hehe.

    I say go for it though. Should be fine, and definitely a well composted mix is better than a lesser one.

    Good luck!

    Here is a link that might be useful: Sinfonian's garden adventure

  • 15 years ago

    I read many other posts on Garden Web about using horse manure as well.

    Now it seems like I should be more concerned about there actually being organic content in it that will help the veggies. I have read that brand new horse manure has all of the organic material in it - but manure that is dried or composted over a year or more has very little nutrients and posters have said they got a lot of leafy growth but very few veggies.

    Guess I still have a lot more research to do on this. I have some forest preserve behind the house so maybe it would also be good to go mulch up a lot of those leaves in the leaf blower/vaccuum and add it in with this stuff.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Use of Horse Manure - Garden Web

  • 15 years ago

    Go with the HM. You won't be sorry.


    Here is a link that might be useful: Johns Journal

  • 15 years ago

    Leaves, even small pieces compost slowly. Go with John's advice if you are not going to buy 5 different composts, and mix it evenly with peat and vemiculite.

    Take the leaves and start a compost pile with grass clippings, kitchen scraps, shredded paper, etc. That way, you can build your own incredibly diverse and nutrient rich compost to add as you replant forever. That's what I've done.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Sinfonian's garden adventure

  • 15 years ago

    You guys impress me with your quick comments and knowledge. I've done gardening for a few years, but sorta just planted stuff here and there without knowing all of the science behind it or anything.

    During the fall, I rake up all the leaves and put it right on the boundary between the back yard and the forest. There is a huge pile of leaves because of it. I sucked up someone of them this evening and mulched them up with the leaf vaccuum. I plan to put some of the leaves in with the manure.

    So, you all believe that using nothing but this mix from the compost facility (well, with a little bit of leaves mixed in), will provide enough of what I need to start off the containers?

    Thank you again for all of your quick comments. I hope to become a pro like you guys.

  • 15 years ago

    I filled my raised beds (new last year) with whatever organic materials I could find last May. The bulk of it was aged/composted horse manure layered with leaves, pine needles, coffee grounds etc. I think they did well, but they did shrink down several inches by fall.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Tales of a Transplanted Gardener

  • 15 years ago

    Go with the HM. You won't be sorry.

    There is a reason why the old farmers used to let the horses and cows roam free. Ask yourself why that is.

    You need some green stuff in there, as the N from the manure might go away (the concern from elsewhere), but the contents of the manure are what you want, and any deficiencies are easily corrected. I tell you, If I could get a hold of a truckload of aged manure for our SFG (and get more shovels and forks than mine working) I'd do it in a heartbeat. Grass clippings. Green manure from red clover.


  • 15 years ago

    I plan to go up to Lowes today to get a test kit to check N-P-K levels. They have a 40 test kit for $12. They have those pH scales/moisture scales as well for about $8 so I can check pH at anytime during the year.

    I plan to check the N-P-K and pH of the stuff I got from the compost place, check the other decomposing pile of stuff, then mix a bit of the two together and check to find out which is best.

  • 15 years ago

    I wouldn't waste your money on those things from lowes. They are junk and won't tell you much.

    Honestly your making a big deal out of a small part of the whole process. Just throw whatever composted material you can get into the bed and put some plants in it. They will do fine as long as you water them. If it's free, even better. Gardening is relatively idiot proof until you start to over think it.

    Last year I had a few bales of peat, a bag of vermiculite, and some bags of the cow compost from lowes. That's it. It wasn't a perfect mix, I never tested it, and I didn't even think about it. I got tons of veggies from the garden, and the only thing that held it back was I didn't follow succession planting or space some things right.

    At my old house the year before that I just had some bags of the cow compost that I had tilled in by a guy in exchange for an old non working yard machine I had. That garden actually grew better than the SQ Ft garden. I got so sick of eating squash and zucchini.

    If you haven't gotten the point yet:


  • 15 years ago

    > I plan to check the N-P-K and pH of the stuff I got from the compost place


    Aged compost is pH neutral.

    The NPK of aged compost is nil.

    *The operative word is "aged"

  • 15 years ago

    I appreciate all the replies to the post here.

    I did end up splurging to buy the test kit at Lowe's. With pouring about $150 into the containers this year and all the other work involved in going to the compost place about 30+ times to fill the buckets, I want to ensure that this is all done right to start with.

    I spoke with another worker at the compost place today after making 8 trips back and forth (have about 1/3 of the first 20 x 4 box) - and the second worker said that it is indeed horse manure that has been in a pile for about two years.

    However, the test kit showed some differences that I'm a bit concerned about. Gary said that it should be pH neutral with nil NPK ingredients.

    The test at Lowe's is a Mosser Lee Soil Master Kit - which includes 10 tests of each pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium.

    The test showed that NPK was "high" (with ratings on Low, Medium, or High). I am fine with that, and I believe that is great so that it has all the nutrients the plants need.

    However, the pH came in on the high side - at 8.0 or maybe a little higher. With all the plants I am planting, it needs to be the typical 6.5 - 7.0.

    Lastly, I also used one of those pH meters that does moisture and light. Again, it showed the same thing - about 7.9 with the needle barely moving.

    I took some of the soil in the ground from where I planted tomatoes last year, and it showed about 7.0. I then also filled a cup with some lemon juice and water and it read 3.5 - so that confirmed that the pH meter was at least working in some respect. I want to say I did 1 part lemon juice to about 20 parts water.

  • 15 years ago

    So, if it's high (that's acidic, right? I can't totally remember) you can add sulfur I think. Peat moss will also lower the acidity (if I don't have this backwards). Am I right? If it's basic, you can add lime. I'm doing this from memory folks. Am I right?

  • 15 years ago

    carolynp, you do have it backwards.:)


    Here is a link that might be useful: Johns Journal

  • 15 years ago

    I am kind of questioning the pH test. The probe pH meter I have has now been used on about five different samples. All of the samples are either at 7 or above.

    I even put the sample in 100% peat moss - which I understand is supposed to be acidic. It still showed about 6.9 or so.

    Granted, the actual soil testing kit still shows the manure at about 8.0 though - and I'm not going to waste any of the other tests on trying other ones out.

    I thought I would post some pictures on here for everyone to see what I've been doing recently.

    Here is the 16 x 4 container that was built this week. I have been slowly filling it with the compost/manure mix. We've already went to the compost place about 10 times and we aren't even half way done filling up this container.


    Here is the 16 x 2 container that was built along the back driveway. Right now there are some pieces of wood sticking up - which is where the potato box will be made as the potatoes grow. I still have yet to even start filling this one.


    Lastly, I decided to plant three seeds each of carrot, broccoli, radish, lettuce, pepper, cauliflower, and beans in the manure mix soil. I first sifted it through a very fine screen to get out all the other large particles and sticks. Hopefully if the seedlings sprout and look alright, this will be a good sign that I don't need to add anything to the manure mix - I have my fingers crossed. I made a small little bar around it so that it will hold up the fluorescent light.


  • 15 years ago

    "There is a reason why the old farmers used to let the horses and cows roam free. Ask yourself why that is."
    1. They're not built for being confined and have loads more health problems when they are.
    2. Fencing material wasn't easy to come by.
    3. It was easier to let the livestock go to the grass than to cut it and bring it to them. Only time that was done was winter when previously harvested hay was fed since it was the only food available in some climates.

  • 15 years ago

    For some reason, the rest of my post got cut off! Ooof!

    What I was going to add is just a reiteration of what I posted on your other thread ~ that straight compost is fine, so your beds will do great. At work, the groundsgardeners planted test beds last year (one with Mel's Mix and various other mixes/soils/composts in the others) and one had straight composted manure and it's doing just dandy. AAMOF, that one's the one we pick the most from for salads for lunch.

    Your beds look great!! Post updated pics as they grow this year, would you? I love to see full, lush square foot beds and I'm betting yours will be just that.

  • 15 years ago

    Isn't it amazing how much it takes to fill the beds? It doesn't seem like it would be so much until you're only halfway done...

    Here is a link that might be useful: Tales of a Transplanted Gardener

  • 15 years ago

    bsntech: Is that Zoysia grass in the front?

  • 15 years ago

    Wow a question i can actually answer =)...

    I did not have the funds for all the different composts suggested by Mel.
    I did have a dairy farm and leaves. That is what I used for all my beds. I mixed a blend of the composted manure and the partly composted manure going for a 50-50 blend. I placed that mix on top of each layer of leaves. I used kind of a 80% compost to 20% leaves mix.

    Each week during the season I would purchase a different compost/mix to add. I would purchase a mushroom compost and add a little to each of my 4 beds. The following week I would purchase another bagged compost and add it to the beds.

    Toward the end of the season the big box stores were ready to get rid of the composts they had and each bag I purchased only cost 79 to 99 cents! I was able to purchase enough to put up for this year so I can add 2 new beds!

    Will I change how I did it? probably not, but the only thing I had go wrong other then the weather were some weeds. I did some weeding but it was very little and I was always working in the beds anyway.

    Even with the weather I had large production of veggies and flowers compared to many in my area who lost their gardens to an abundance of rain.

    Good Luck!

  • 15 years ago

    Gary -

    Wow you are good - it indeed is that zoysia grass - it feels really nice on the feet and all turns green at the same time - but it takes forever to turn green - mid to end of May - then dies early.

    I'm wondering a bit if I'm going to have a problem with it trying to creep into the planting area - I did dig all of the sod out before putting the area in, so I'm hoping that was enough.

  • 15 years ago

    Your best info on horse manure would probably be available over on the compost forum, but I can share a little. I've been using aged horse manure in my ornamental gardens for years (having four horses). Here are some basics that I think everyone will agree with:

    1 - Fresh manure from horses that are bedded with shavings can have too high a C/N ratio, so, if you can get manure without the shavings, it's going to be a lot better. Pure fresh manure has a ratio of around 12:1.
    2 - Fresh manure CAN have issues with pathogens. Also, most of us 'worm' our horses. I'm told these things break down in the manure aging process.
    3 - Fresh manure CAN have viable seeds, i.e. weeds. I supplement my horses' feed with, among other things, whole flax seeds, and there ARE flax flowers in the summer on top of the fresh manure pile. These seeds do seem to break down through the hot composting process, as I do NOT see flax flowers growing in areas where I use the aged compost. This assumes that the compost is TURNED as it ages.
    4 - Manure loses its nutrients through run-off when it is aged without a cover, and rain water is able to leach the 'good stuff' out. (BTW, lack of cover is also how manure gets its bad reputation for seeds. In properly covered aged manure, the weed seeds get destroyed, as stated above, BUT, without cover, viable seeds can blow onto the pile.)
    5 - Fresh manure can physically be too hot. When I stick my compost thermometer in even a small pile of manure that's been around for three days, the temp can be over 100 degrees.

    So.... IMHO aged compost that has been turned, at least for me, has worked great in my non-food gardening.


  • 15 years ago

    "I'm wondering a bit if I'm going to have a problem with it trying to creep into the planting area - I did dig all of the sod out before putting the area in, so I'm hoping that was enough."

    Somebody must have "imported" that Zoysia from STL to central IL. hehehehehehhe - Zoysia is very popular in STL. MO.

    Zoysia spreads by rhizomes* and does have a very deep root system due to its natural drought tolerance, it invading is very possible, if not likely.

    Zoysia is among the most wear tolerant turf grasses. However, its slow rate of growth gives it poor recuperative potential, also the common broadleaf herbicide found in many weed and feed products can seriously damage the grass if used at the wrong time of year - ergo high heat times. So Zoysia is not invincible, like bermuda is, LOL!

    But, considering that you will be diligent with irrigating your raised bed, the moisture from the bed will also flow to the Zoysia root zone, thus making it flourish.

    So having said that and knowing the Zoysia is not as aggressive as bermuda grass, one might consider making a mulch border around the raised bed. I see in your picture that you are going alongside your driveway, a mulched border with colored bark or stone about 12" wide into the Zoysia would make the raised bed very attractive, and then any Zoysia invading the mulched border could easily be controlled with a non selective herbicide.

    Just 2 cents - hope this helps.

    Here is a link that might be useful: {{gwi:1265170}}

  • 15 years ago

    Cherylco -

    In the manure mix, there doesn't appear to be any shavings of wood - although since the pile is 2+ years old, that might be hard to tell.

    I can also say that the piles were not turned nor were they covered - but if you can imagine 7+ feet piles that are 200+ feet long, the compost facility has two such piles.

    Gary -

    You raise a good point about the mulching around the beds. It does help that it is right alongside the driveway, although there may still be some root systems that were left right along there. I plan to get the tiller out and till the area soon as well - although this won't do too much good for the seeds/roots.

    When I removed the sod for the raised bed, I must have dug probably 1.5 inches underneath the grass - and then the whole thing just pulled right up because the root system was just like a fabric.

    I am beginning to wonder now about the two strawberry patches I made in the front yard - I just made two 4x4 boxes and filled them with topsoil - without removing the underlying sod. Sounds like I may be having quite the day with the grass coming up through those.

  • 15 years ago

    Gary -

    Just got done excavating all of the sod that was underneath the strawberry pyramids in the background of one of those pictures. When we made the pyramids, we filled them with topsoil and didn't worry about taking the sod out from underneath - that was before I knew much about the zoysia grass.

    Took about four hours this evening after getting off work.

    I placed some 4 mil black plastic underneath the two pyramids and then I have the first 4x4 square placed back around.

    However, now I have another dillema - since the first square is now sunk in the ground by about 4 inches, how will the water escape the area and keep from water logging the strawberries?

    I am afraid of putting holes in the plastic for drainage since the grass may try to peak up through it - and completely undermine my efforts.

    Would you have any ideas on how to support drainage for this area?

    Thank you!

  • 15 years ago

    > Just got done excavating all of the sod that was underneath the strawberry pyramidsI think I would have placed some kind of mulch, newspaper or cardboard under the pyramid, instead of the plastic. Strawberries do not like wet feet.

    But, is this plastic like a garbage bag or is it landscaping fabric? If the latter, you'll be fine with drainage then.

    Is it too late to fix if need be?

  • 15 years ago

    Nope, I haven't refilled the area as of yet.

    But, it is like a garbage bag - not landscaping fabric. I'm hesitant to using the landscape fabric just because I've seen many times where it has ripped and broken apart - and then it leaves a big mess at the end.

    However, I did use three pieces of 4 x 5 plastic under two of the 4 x 4 areas (and some pavers between them) - so there is some overlap between the three pieces - would this be enough drainage?

    Although there is no soil filled in yet, we had pretty heavy rains last night into this morning and it seems to have drained farily well.

  • 15 years ago

    I would go with a thick layer of newspaper instead of the plastic. I am mixing my aged horse manure with the native sand for my garden pots this year. I also bury the pots as I find they are less needy that way.

  • 15 years ago

    I don't see how the newspaper idea is a good solution - since to me it is just temporary as the newspaper will rot.

    Once the newspaper rots, the grass can then just re-grow back up through the area, correct?

  • 15 years ago

    The idea with newspaper or cardboard is that by the time it rots, it's starved the plants below. Then the soil on top keeps light from reaching the plants, keeping them from regrowing. I've read of this working quite well, but I used landscape fabric. Seems to be working quite well.

  • 15 years ago


    Zoysia does spread but it is no where as evasive as bermudagrass is. So by removing the sod, like you already have, you are one step ahead to the good.

    The reason I suggested mulching a border around the perimeter of your raised bed, and the straw beery pyramid also is you will have a visual of the spreading Zoysia as it tries to encroach into the the garden area. Then you could control its invasion either by hand or with chemicals.

    My concern with the plastic under the pyramid is more for the health of the strawberries. They want well drained soil.

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