How much manure to use in container

xamarlinMarch 1, 2011

I just received about 80 pounds of cow manure that's been composting in a barn for about 20 years. It seems like amazing fertilizer, and the guy who gave it to me said it works great. I want to use it in a few different containers as fertilizer, but I don't know how much to use. I will plant my tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets, and my cucumbers in 30 gallon used feed buckets. For soil I will probably just use regular potting soil from Lowe's. What do you experts with some more experience think?

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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I wouldn't use any.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 8:43PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Nor would I.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 8:55PM
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Zero. Zip. Ziltch. Nada.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 2:49AM
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I agree... none. Save it for the garden/yard.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 6:16AM
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suddensam(10 Boynton Beach)

Your plants have no chance to do well, death by drowning, never use soil, or manure in containers.
Plant em if you got em.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 6:41AM
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0000000000000000000000000000 across the board.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 8:18AM
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And the votes are's unanimous!!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 9:56AM
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If well composted, you could add some to a potting mix with addition of small bark and perlite. I know it is not in favor with many people, but I have added compost to some of my container mixes without any problems. I have not used manure in containers, however manure was part of my compost. It must be completely composted to avoid problems.

When using compost, I have always used additional fertilizer such as time-release. Try asking your question over at Organic Gardening, Tomatoes or the Soil Forums. You might get more specific advice.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 11:29AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Wouldn't use it.

Your results will be as Sam says.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 12:34PM
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80 lbs. let's see..........

2 or 3 4x4 or 3x6 raised beds......using Mel's mix

Containers, no!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 7:31PM
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Normally I would agree that you shouldn't use any. But if it's composted for 20 years, I really think a little would be fine. I regularly use compost in my containers and have had great success, but I started before I knew any better. Probably wouldn't do more than 10%, though. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 8:35PM
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Thanks for all your advice guys, it's a huge help!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 1:49AM
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I've used horse manure. You definately don't want to use a lot in containers. I mix just a little bit with the potting soil or sprinkle just a little on top of the soil after planting. I'm talking really well composted, old horse manure. It does help with nutrients (the manure containers had healthier/larger plants) but you still have to use other fertilizer.

I should note that I have lots of earthworms etc in my large containers so I think it helps to break the organic stuff down.

I'm still experimenting with organic vs miracle gro in containers. I did all organic the first year and did have success. However, my plants would have been larger had I not crowded them. Last year I did miracle gro and it seemed to be working but then my foster dogs dug my garden up :( so I don't know what the end result would have been.

Dogs have been adopted out and mine leave my garden alone so I am trying again.


    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 12:18PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Good luck, Ania. ;-)


    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 1:46PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Good luck, Ania. ;-)


    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 1:47PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Good luck, Ania. ;-)


    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 1:48PM
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I think the most important fact to keep in mind, here, is that growing within the confines of a container is vastly different than growing in the ground.

The abridged version is, Mother Nature is comprised of a system of balance and has an entire army of small and microscopic living things working constantly at decomposing organic matter and turning it into usable plant nutrition. It's next to impossible to keep this same army and same balance of "good and bad" actively going within the limited spaces of containers.

Once that is understood, it becomes logical to approach container growing from a more inorganic angle, and leave the organic ideas for the garden outside. In essence, it falls to us to maintain and control the environment within said containers. This is much easier to do, with a much smaller margin for error, if we do approach it from a more inorganic angle.

That's the first idea to keep in mind. The second is knowing what purpose a soil or a medium plays to a plant. A well known, reliable source tells us... "Soil fills only a few needs in container culture. Among them are: Anchorage - A place for roots to extend, securing the plant and preventing it from toppling. Nutrient Retention - It must retain enough nutrients in available form to sustain plant systems. Gas Exchange - It must be sufficiently porous to allow air to move through the root system and by-product gasses to escape. Water - It must retain water enough in liquid and/or vapor form to sustain plants between waterings. Most plants can be grown without soil as long as we can provide air, nutrients, and water, (witness hydroponics)."

Keeping those things in mind, it becomes even more logical to leave organic growing for the garden outside, and keep a more inorganic method for container culture. Add to these things how water reacts to and moves through soils, and it becomes even more of a quest to use and maintain a durable medium within containers.

Personally, I'd spread the aged manure compost on the beds outside where Mother Nature will turn it into usable food for garden plants, and use a much more inorganic medium for my potted plants. The article linked below explains everything in detail, from a simple scientific, factual standpoint...

Of course, how you grow and what you use are up to you, but it's always nice to have the facts, to possess the knowledge so you can make informed choices.

Happy Growing!

Here is a link that might be useful: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention 12

    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 1:48PM
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Al, what fertilizer do you think will give me the most success? Seems to be all about the fertilizer in the containers. I learned about strength and frequency of fertilization from you all and that has helped a lot. Last I remember, everyone was saying that miracle grow works fine.

I have BIG containers this year too :) Redwood 4L x 3W x 3T
I love em!

I'm open to advice :)

    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 2:06PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Using soluble fertilizers like MG, Peters, Foliage-Pro, others, is MUCH easier and a more effective way to manage your plants supplemental nutrition than say mixing in several kinds of meal or other organic soil amendments and then hoping that the nutrients will be available (and not locked tightly in organic hydrocarbon chains) when the plants need them.

Here is something I wrote about using 'things' to supply nutrients that don't supply ALL the nutrients. It talks about seaweed emulsion, but you could insert 'manure' or various 'meals' (blood/bone/feather/horn) for 'seaweed'. See if it makes sense to you:

xxx asks: "Should I continue to feed it with seaweed? foliar spray too?"
Two questions that seem to beg yes/no answers, but in any case need qualifying.

I look at nutrition methodically. I prefer to use the least number of nutrient mixtures that will ensure my plants are getting all the essential nutrients they normally take from the soil and in the right proportions. The reason is, supplying more of any one element than a plant can use can be as limiting as supplying too little. 'How did he get THERE?' you might ask. Seaweed emulsion usually lists K as a nutrient, and not much else, even though we know it contains other trace elements. So - you use it ..... then what? Obviously, it is going to be entirely inadequate in supplying the major elements, N P K Ca Mg S. So what do you do .... you fertilize. Since you have no idea what you supplied with the fish emulsion, you still need to be sure all the bases are covered. You maybe reach for the Miracle-Gro to supply the needed NPK. So you fertilize - then what? Did you cover the plant's need for Ca and Mg? No. So now what? You still haven't covered all the bases.

The point is, if you're using fertilizers that only cover a few of the elements required for growth, additional fertilizers are required to fill in the gaps, Almost always, there will be overlaps, where you are supplying the same element in both products, or the same element will be missing from both products - gaps. Why not choose a fertilizer that supplies ALL the elements required for normal growth, and in a ratio to each other that is favorable, thereby eliminating gaps, overlaps, and potential antagonisms? [Antagonistic deficiencies occur when an excess of one element in the soil solution prevents adequate uptake of 1 or more other elements. Common antagonisms exist between Fe/Mn, P/Fe and Mn, Ca/Mg, others.]

I'm not saying the seaweed emulsion (or manure) is harmful, only that if you're employing a fertilizer like Foliage-Pro 9-3-6, it's probably redundant. This question in another form often comes up when discussing the use of aquarium water as a nutrient source. We know the aquarium water is not a complete fertilizer, and since you have no idea what you DID supply when you used it, you will certainly need to fertilize anyway - thus making the aquarium water (or manure) of little or no value.


    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 2:24PM
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That makes perfect sense. I'm glad you mentioned it cause I probably would have continued to double up just like you described :)

I'll stick with soluble but may do one squash in a whiskey barrel with soluble and one with organic so I can see if I can see the difference. Just out of curiosity :)


    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 4:21PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If you remember us - please do report? ;o)


    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 4:29PM
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