old cow manure - good or bad?

kay09June 6, 2009

We're new gardeners and we've built a raised bed and filled it with 100% old cow manure and no regular soil (it is pure manure that we were told has basically aged so long that it has turned back into dirt - no smell or traces of anything 'fresh').

We are about a month into this and the plants seem to be thriving, but I'm worrying that there could be dangers and don't want to be eating poisoned vegetables - I've read about the dangers of pathogens, etc. If this was a huge mistake is there anything I can do about it now? Or is this completely safe since it's old?

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iam3killerbs(7 NC Sandhills)

Well-aged manure is one of the best things you could possibly use in your garden. Very rich in nutrients and perfectly safe because the composting process as it ages destroys pathogens.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 4:02PM
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ruthieg__tx(z8 TX)

What you don't use, can I have? I went to my neighbor's pasture and picked up cow patties last year. My husband said he couldn't believe his eyes. I just laughed and he said, if "they" could see you now, meaning old friends.....and I told him that if "they" could only the ones that knew what I was doing would count, cause they would understand....the rest wouldn't even matter to me.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 4:40PM
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kay09

Thanks and how old is well-aged? Actually maybe I should ask what it should or shouldn't look or smell like, because I don't know how long this was aged. The cattle farm we got it from basically piles what he has and lets it sit - I don't believe he does anything else to it. What we have isn't clumpy, but it is course and dark. To me it looks like topsoil. Is tnere some way I can tell if it's beyond the point that the pathogens are killed off?

Thanks!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 4:42PM
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marlingardener

This is advice from Texas, where we know what goes into and comes out of cows. If the cow manure is black, crumbly and doesn't smell of anything except earth, it is safe. It is more than safe, it is black gold for the garden!
Usually it takes a year for manure to compost, but that depends on rainfall and temperatures. The wetter and hotter it is, the faster the manure breaks down. If you didn't gag putting it your raised bed, it is well-composted. You're so lucky to have a source of black gold.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 5:36PM
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iam3killerbs(7 NC Sandhills)

Yes, what marlin said.

If it smells like dirt instead of poop its ready.

Black Gold!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 7:14PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Thanks and how old is well-aged?

Per the many discussions on this question over on the Soil, Compost & Mulch forum, if composted (mixed well with many other ingredients) 4 months minimum and applied to the food garden no later than 90-120 days prior to harvest. If just stockpiled alone, 1 year with the same application rule. You'll find many discussions there with research article links if you want to review them.

But keep in mind that it isn't "dirt" (soil). It compost, or humus if you prefer, and as such can be lacking in the minerals and micro-nutrients found in plain old dirt. That would be my only concern with your raised beds being filled with only the composted manure.

Dave

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 10:01PM
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shirleywny5(5)

If the manure is more than three years old, most of the nutrients have been leached out. However it is wonderful compost for your garden. Just turn it into your garden soil. Black Gold it is.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 10:45PM
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makete(U.P. of Mi.)

Cant even imagine amending the garden with soil....LOL

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 4:33PM
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