Old horse manure

KermdawgMarch 24, 2011

Hey my neighbor has 5 horses and lets one free range in the lot behind my house when he's in heat so he dont get so aggressive with his other horses. Anyway, he eats and poops and what not back there and it sits all summer long (I live just outside of vegas so its hot)

I was wondering if that old horse waste is any good for composting or fertilizing. Its really old and dried out and stuff.

My second question also relates to composting-I'm trying to start a compost pile out here, and as ya probably know, it gets -hot-. Right now my dirt(dirt, not soil) has absolutely zero organic material in it, so I've been adding some cow manure and Kellog's amend to it to try and livin it up so I can plant some vegetables this spring-summer.

My garden is about 20x20. Should I build a shade over the compost pile and or the garden?

My third question-(last one I promise) is I know worms are great for working the soil. I dont really want to rely on them to compost wholely on their own, but I kinda need em to help the process along and work the soil. I've read that you need about 1000 for "worm composting" but how many do I need to help the soil along?

Thanks in advance

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If the horse manure is odorless, and remains odorless when you disturb it with a garden fork, then it has essentially "composted in place," and it can be put directly on the garden. However, if it were me, I would limit the use of this material to areas of the garden with crops that grow above ground, like beans, tomatoes, and raspberry canes.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 11:19AM
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Yes, horse manure is great for composting. Never used it fresh myself, as I buy it. So someone will have to fill you in on the specifics, but do make sure it is well composted first so it does not burn the plants.

I don't think shade is necessary for compost. The sun will only help it heat up. But it will dry it out faster. So make sure you keep the pile moist. Not dripping wet, but moist. As for the garden, depends on what you are growing. Most veggies prefer full sun, but it is good to provide a little shade for early plants sometimes to prolong their season.

As for worms, they're not a huge deal. As long as the pile has a good mix of greens (veggie scraps,manure, etc) and browns (cardboard, paper, etc) and it is kept turned, it should compost pretty fast. The pile will heat up, sometimes over 100 degrees in the middle, and I don't imagine this will make the worms very happy. :) But you will have a whole herd of bacteria doing the work.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 11:28AM
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dottyinduncan(z8b coastal BC)

We have had cow patties and donkey doo dry in place until they are almost weightless. However, I've picked them up, added water and used them quite happily. The fibrous content holds water and amends the soil quite well. If I have no immediate need, I dig a hole in the garden and pop them in, cover with soil. I figure this ensures that any fertilizer component is not lost.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 11:48AM
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Thanks for the help. Glad to hear the old horse manure will work.

Im not so worried about the sunlight as I am the heat. I take it the compost pile wont mind if the temperature outside is over 100 degrees? thats good, might actually help things. But what about my plants? That was why I was thinking about building a shade for em so they would keep cooler in the hot afternoon sun (its usually only in the 90s in the shade).

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 9:40AM
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Wow, that's pretty hot! Obviously, tomatoes, peppers, and okra will do well. :)

The compost shouldn't mind the heat, as long as it's kept moist and turned. As for the plants, you might have trouble with the cooler crops like lettuce, broccoli, and spinach. But I'm afraid blocking off all direct sunlight could hinder them.

Oh, and as far as watering goes, make sure you water early in the morning or late in the evening. Watering during hot/sunny weather can burn the plants and stress them, as well as put them at greater risk for disease.

What are you planning on growing??


    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 3:19PM
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Plannin on growing tomatoes, lettuce and corn. Maybe some broccoli and beans. I heard potatoes and onions might do good around here too so I might try them.

If I did build the shade it wouldnt block all the sunlight, only the afternoon sun. Done easily enough by making it movable so I can position it accordingly. I wasnt aware that watering during the day will stress the plants-we water the plants during the morning/evening around here for water conservation.

Heres a link to our climate-http://www.weather.com/weather/wxclimatology/monthly/graph/USNV0072

Average high over 90 from late may to late september :) Then it freezes from november to feburary. Livin in the desert sux sometimes :p

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 9:53PM
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I think your question has already been answered. I clicked on the link because I was wondering what effect the horse's age would have on the manure. As soon as I started reading, I slapped my forehead and said, "Doh!"

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 11:15PM
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The reason I asked the question is most people are talking about "aging" horse manure in some sort of controlled environment for the purposes of actually using it in the future.

The stuff I got is from a horse in a pasture that has been sittin there outside in the heat and cold for several years. I thought there would be a significant differance seeing as how the horse scat is completely devoid of anything I would deem useful to soil, hence why I was wondering if it was worth my time harvesting it or not.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 10:04AM
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IMO it's worth harvesting old dried horse manure and I've used but I'm sure it doesn't have the same value as a fertilizer as fresh that has been properly composted. It seems to me what is left after it's dried and weathered in sun and rain is mostly fiber. That does have value in building soil tho which is why I go to the effort of picking it up and either adding it to my compost/mulch or burying it between plants.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 11:12AM
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Kermdawg, it is way too late to plant lettuce in the desert. It's a fall, winter, and early spring crop. If you want tomatos, it's too late to start from seeds, but a perfect time to put in 12" plants from a nursery. They like heat but once it goes over 90 they suffer. At that point they appreciate mid-day shade. I use a PVC pipe frame with shade cloth. I have heard that peppers and eggplants can take the full sun, at least through early summer. For more details about gardening in your area, look up your county's agricultural extension, and/or local gardening clubs and botanical gardens for great info.

Your biggest challenge with compost in the desert will be keeping it moist enough to let the bacteria thrive. I find using a bin really helps keep the moisture in the pile. An open-air pile will always be crispy dry on the outside, in your climate. I keep my bin moist by adding a lot of used coffee grounds. I get them from a local Circle K and because they are so finely ground and saturated w/ water, they do a great job of keeping the bin moist, if mixed in well. I do have an open air pile as well, and I add "gray water" as often as I can: rainwater, wash water, the dog's dirty splash pool water, rinse water, etc.

Your old, dried out manure will add much-needed organic material to your soil, which helps it retain moisture. But the bad news is, it is probably not composted (broken down by bacteria) because it was never wet enough. It will compost, slowly, in the soil. Manure that is piled up, kept moist, and turned to incorporate oxygen and compost it well is more completely broken down, and has more available nutrients as well as living organisms that enhance the soil.

Hope that helps. Best of luck.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 8:41PM
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Thanks for the help. Earlier this month it was 70 for about a week, so I went outside and started getting everything ready for plantin. The very next day, it dropped to freezing over night. Its been real up and down this year, but I think its -finally- starting to warm up, hence why I've waited so long.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 3:40PM
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