How do you tell how old manure is?

jayco(5b NY)March 15, 2009

This is a dumb newby question, but we got some free horse manure and the woman wasn't clear on how old it is. So, for a poop novice, is there a way to determine just how old the stuff is? Thanks!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

How does it smell? Like crap? Pretty fresh. Ammonia? Still kinda fresh. Like freshly turned earth? Ready to use.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 7:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Yep you got to use the nose and the hands and really sniff it out good. And, if it still attracts flies it is too raw. ;)

Or, just compost it for 4-6 months and then you don't have to worry one way or another.


    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 9:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jayco(5b NY)

Well, I'd say it's halfway between smelling of earth and smelling just a little bit of ammonia. It no longer looks like poop, though I believe most persons would be able to distinguish its poop origins. Do you think if we kept it in a pile and turned it every week for the next six weeks that then it would be okay to put on the veggie garden?

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 10:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Possible. Depends on several factors like rain etc, and what it is mixed with. Straight manure? I wouldn't count on it. If you can add some more carbons (browns) to it, it will speed up the process.

But the "official" recommendation (if there is such a thing) is 6 months old minimum for use in food gardens and some sources are now saying 12 months because of potential pathogens.

Bottom line - it's up to you. You'll just have to see what it smells like 6 weeks from now. But if in doubt, give it more composting time.


    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 11:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Keep in mind that all of the Ag Schools today strongly recommend that all manures be aged 12 months before being applied to your garden 90 to 120 days before harvest, or that your manure be properly composted before being applied to your garden, as Dave first recommmended.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 7:56AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jayco(5b NY)

Thanks, this is helpful. We've got a bunch of old leaves we can add to the pile. 12 months seems very long -- is that sort of like the way "they" recommend you cook your Thanksgiving turkey for six hours? Not that I want to be cavalier about it, but I just want to get a sense of how conservative that 12 months thing is.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 9:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
blutranes(z8 Mid Ga)

Jayco asked:

" 12 months seems very long -- is that sort of like the way "they" recommend you cook your Thanksgiving turkey for six hours?

No, it is sort of like making sure you are growing your food in the safest environment one can provide. Yes, some members have different suggestions based on experience, and their words are true from their point of view. However, everyone may not be as fortunate in their dealings with manure, thus the suggestion to compost the manure and let it age. Personally, I feel better knowing I am taking the safest route, and not looking to cut corners getting the turkey to the table.

When Jeannie7 first suggested letting manure age for 12 (twelve) months she was verbally attacked from just about every side for her comments. It amazes me to see one of the leaders of those attacks now spouting Jeannie7 suggestions like they are their own. I have long understood, and can only trust some will take heed to the wisdom; "keep your words sweet, you may have to eat them"Â


    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 10:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

A local giant in the composting business starts with horse manure from the stables at an adjacent race track. They also get excess milk from dairies, out of spec products from soft drink bottlers, restaurant garbage, and brewery dregs. They pile it all and start taking temperatures. The piles (windrows) are turned with a machine according to a schedule for 15 days while temperatures are continually monitored and pathogens tested. After the 15 days, if the piles test 0.00 for pathogens, they are left alone for another 30 days. Then the piles are smell tested to see if they are ready to sift and sell. In just about every case the piles are sold before 90 days go by.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 10:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would ask the OP how much of this horse manure material he is intending to use over how large of a garden and if he intends to incorporate it into the soil and to what depth.

I would also ask the horse owner if the horse(s) has(have) been given any meds and if any pesticides were used in the stables. This last thing in reference to a horse owner (barbaraak) in a previous thread who mentioned these items.

Might be useful information to know.


P.S. I have come to the realization that asking Einstein to post a link that supports his assertions is futile. It would be nice to gauge the relativity of the theory to the facts, but alas, not to be.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 11:09AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jayco(5b NY)

Hi again.

Seems like the manure topic can get pretty hot, and I didn't mean to stir things up or step in it! (It's pretty easy to get carried away with composting puns, is it not?) Anyway, I don't know Jeannie7 and I'm not trying to be disrespectful of those who advocate aging for a year. My motivations are purely selfish: I'd like to be able to use the manure, but of course if it's foolish to do so I won't.

The woman we got the stuff from owns four horses which she keeps in a corral at her home. I highly doubt she gives them meds or uses pesticides (they were scruffy home-pet looking horses, if you know what I mean), though I didn't ask.

We got a small pickup truck full and want to dig it into our heavy garden soil along with rotted leaves -- the garden being about 500 sq. feet. We guess if it were spread out it might be an inch or two deep over the surface. Then we plan to use our own well-aged wood chips as mulch.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 11:25AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jayco(5b NY)

Oh, and the manure is mixed with a decent amount of sawdust bedding, I imagine it's pine, as that's what's routinely used in our area. And as to depth, well, we're lazy and the soil weighs a ton, so we'd rather not dig it in more than a foot, but could be persuaded :)

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 11:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

NOP says:

(1) Raw animal manure, which must be composted unless it is:

(i) Applied to land used for a crop not intended for human consumption;

(ii) Incorporated into the soil not less than 120 days prior to the harvest of a product whose edible portion has direct contact with the soil surface or soil particles; or

(iii) Incorporated into the soil not less than 90 days prior to the harvest of a product whose edible portion does not have direct contact with the soil surface or soil particles

So far, these numbers are the only ones I could find from any credible or official-like source.

But given the decay already apparent in the material you have, I would personally be comfortable with tilling 2 inches of this manure and some leaves into a 6 inch depth and planting in a couple of months. I am going to assume that your soil temperature is above freezing and will remain there.


P.S. I am not a gardener and ya, it does get "interesting" sometimes. :-)

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 11:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
blutranes(z8 Mid Ga)


I truly understand your wanting to use the manure; I have been in the same position many times. Looking at all that rich manure, knowing it has been on the floor of the stalls for months, maybe years for all I know. However, just because manure is old, pressed down, and lacks a smell is no reason to take chances, not around my house anyway. I would rather play it safe, knowing my kids/grandkids are going to go out in that garden regardless to what rules I make about walking on my beds. I would rather know for sure that those sitting at my dinner table are eating food grown in healthy soil with no chance of eating something I would not want them to feed me. This is why I say what I say, not to keep up some kind of controversy or get a "wacko" award for a point that doesnÂt need to be proved.

With all you have said, composting those materials are your best bet for a great garden. Yes, you can stack it all up "lasagna" style and get a good crop; that may be the best way for you to go. The decision is yours, I only speak in terms of what I would do; other members may differ and I have nothing to say about their technique. There is no "right or wrong" way to do this; the main thing is that we enjoy what we are doing. Go for it Jayco, just make sure you are comfortable with what you are doingÂ


    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 11:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

pt03 reminded me of something. There are two herbicides that might be in use on the hay that the horses ate. This was a huge scandal on the west coast a couple years ago. The two herbicides are picloram (PICK low ram) and clopyralid (kloh PIER uh lid). These herbicides are used on grass fields to get rid of broadleaf weeds. Unfortunately these herbicides are persistent and remain viable herbicides through the animal and through the composting process. They remain herbicides for years after application. You could ask your friend if she knows the 'pedigree' of the horse's hay or you could test the compost yourself.

The Test
Plant 3 beans in a little pot with good potting soil. When the beans come up and have developed a second leaf, take some of the horse manure compost and dunk it into a quart of water. Immediately pour the water onto the sprouted beans. If the beans are still alive and looking good the next day, then your compost is okay.

If your compost fails that test, you will have a hard time getting rid of it. It will kill the roots of any broadleaf plants it gets onto including trees. You would have to find a grass farmer with wide open fields (no trees) and they might take it from you.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 7:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you simply pile manure up you do need to let it age for 12 months, but is you properly compost that same manure, which is much better all arounbd anyway, you need not wait 12 months. I'm not at all sure I would try for 14 day compost with any animal manure today, but and depending on the temperatures reached and maintained, 4 to 6 months should be ample time. Simply piling up manures for 12 months is a large waste of valuable nutrients. There are some that deny a pile of manure will loose any nutrients, but numerous studies have shown that it does happen and the contamination of our water by manure piles should be evidence that this method of handling manure is not terribly good.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 8:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jayco(5b NY)

Thanks for all the input -- I think we're going to put it in a nice pile with some leaves, turn it regularly, and see how it looks/smells after 6 weeks.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 9:58AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Lawn fertilizer to increase nitrogen in flower beds?
For several years now my lawn and beds have been fed...
Need advice for filling a hole
Hi everyone, I have a 3 foot wide by about 1.5 foot...
arlene_82 (zone 6 OH)
Questions about gritty mix
Hi folks, I am a long time gardener but new to the...
hsw (zone 6, Boston area)
Does anyone not like newspaper for weed blocking?
I give advice as a master gardener for my county extension...
Need advice on watering succulents with new soil
I recently began using soil-less soil, as has been...
Sponsored Products
Cordless Amesbury Mailbox Swag
Grandin Road
Collins Leather Chair - Brighton Parrot Red
Joybird Furniture
Safavieh Area Rug: Anatolia Blue/Ivory 4' x 6'
Home Depot
Zwilling J.A. Henckels 16-piece Forged Synergy Knife Set
Limoncello Pitcher
$64.00 | FRONTGATE
Varaluz | Fascination Medium Outdoor Wall Light
$449.00 | YLighting
Plug In Meridian Glass Pendant Island Lamp 2 Lights
Double Layer Glass Vessel Sink
MR Direct Sinks and Faucets
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™