Monday, July 18th, 2011...12:00 am

Mulch and Compost – Use Horse Manure

The Magic Of Horses by Big Grey Mare

Another thing to do to your garden to prevent water loss in the time of drought, is to be sure that all your plants have mulch around their roots. Mulch keeps weeds down and helps retain water. There are many different types of mulch that you can use.

Must be gardeners near by by pollyalida

l use aged horse manure as mulch. I am lucky that I know someone who raises horses, ages their manure at least 6 months and then delivers it to my house. The woman said that her horses, who are retired, earn their keep this way so that she “never has to put them out to pasture” so to speak. The adage to never use fresh horse manure on your plants or you can burn them is said with a caveat. I have heard that a thin layer will not burn. But I have never tried it because I would think that even if it didn’t burn, the fresh manure would stink.

I love aged horse manure. It has almost no down side. When aged, horse manure has no smell. Horse manure has no harmful bacteria in it like some other manures. It breaks down in the horses stomach faster than most manure in other animals do- so it ages fast. And it is both a mulch and a compost.

If I were to work it into the soil, I know that horse manure would enrich my soil. But I am too lazy to work it into my mostly clay and shale soil. So I spread a thin layer as mulch. When it decays, the horse manure seems to help break down the clay as well as fertilize the soil. The lazy woman’s way of enriching the soil. (I wish I knew how to put something on the ground that would break up all that shale, too 😉

l started using horse manure a few years ago because a friend who has a show garden uses it as his mulch. Anyone who saw his garden wanted something as beautiful. Also, in my town the local shopping center has a central courtyard with a beautiful garden. The Italian gardener, I learned many years after he retired, had made his garden grow so beautifully by using horse manure as mulch and compost. I think the Italians have been and are some of the best farmers and gardeners. I like to learn from good gardeners. They are the best teachers. Since I have been using horse manure as mulch, you should see my worms. They are as long and thick as pencils.

And this morning, as an added bonus as I was watering my garden and watering down the layer of mulch, a yellow swallowtail was puddling in my horse manure mulch. Butterflies drink nectar from flowers but need added minerals and nutrients that they obtain from mud and scat (scat is the polite word for animal poop). As far as I know, it is mainly the male butterfly that puddles for these nutrients.  See here.

What is the down side of horse manure mulch? You can get weeds growing in the pile of horse manure. Some cover the pile with something like a tarp while it is sitting outdoors. It is always advisable to weed your garden before putting the horse manure down as mulch.

If you can’t find aged horse manure but are willing to allow the pile of horse manure to age on your property, you might be able to get fresh horse manure more easily. Contact your zoo or local horse farm to ask if you can get some. But first ask them if they would age it for you. If they are willing it is worth the extra money.

There are some companies that sell bagged horse manure but this GardenLady has never tried to buy it in bags.  See here.

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  • I so agree with this. I have a neighbor who has donkeys…….and I’ve been the lucky recipient of that manure for 2 years now. Great stuff. And the worms—huge!
    When I first moved here, there wasn’t a worm in sight. I had dry, sandy soil. Well, not soil. Just sand. I’m slowly building great soil, and my gardens are getting better every year.

  • Harvey rothberg (M D)
    July 18th, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Hi Lilac! Thanks very much for the garden tour. I’m full of new ideas, some of which will be used in Nancy and David’s new garden in Chatham….What I was trying to think of (for a climbing plant along a sunny wall) is Pyracantha (firethorn)….It was really nice to see you; you are truly a Master Gardener! Stay well and warm regards.
    Harvey Rothberg. P S:
    My wife Nancy also rememembers fondly your care and tutelage of our daughter Nancy, and sends her best wishes as well.
    H R

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