Horse Manure

sanctified(Zone 5)April 1, 2012

I sourced a trailer of horse manure yesterday and have some questions about what to add to it. I read in the FAQs here that it should be considered green and read in another place that its classification depends on how longs it had been sitting and a number of other things.

The guy I got it from said that it had been sitting and steaming all winter long. The pile was about 40' long and up to 4' tall.

I want to get it composted well so that I might be able to use it later in the summer/fall. Is it still considered a "green" or because it has been sitting for a while and isn't fresh maybe not so green anymore?

I do need to get it to heat up though to make sure all of the seeds and whatnot get destroyed. Hoping to partake of your collective wisdom. Thanks.

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I would treat it as a green & add shredded leaves & straw.
But if you are worried about seeds, then put the shredded leave on the side & add grass clipping to the manure.
If it gets to hot or is unbalanced, then add the leaves & turn.
How well broken down is it, any straw or wood chips, manure apples?
does it look dark, smell like earth, not manure,is it consistent size or still large lumps & sum small size?
I get two kinds of manure from horse barns.
1) out the stall, green in color, smelly, hot,wet not aged or rotten.
The second is from the corral & is walked into the soil,rotten,black.
The first is removed often & stocked piled, probably what you have.
2)The second is removed once or twice a year, before the wet season & replaced by sand.
2) does not need composting, but the first does.
If you have an open bed you are not using then you can till it in & leave it for 90 to 180 days. But this will NOT kill the grass seeds.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 12:32PM
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sanctified(Zone 5)

There is some straw in it, not a ton but some. I wheelbarrow ed it from the pile to my trailer and tried to get it from the middle and bottom of the pile but it seems like most of it is from your second description with some fresher stuff mixed there as well.

I didn't see any wood chips. I don't have leaves and don't want to buy straw but think I can source sawdust. I can also probably source some greens from the grocery store, the discarded pieces. I do have a lot of grass but would rather mulch it and leave it in the lawn. I guess I could bag the first mowing and go from there.

So do you think that if I add greens to the pile that will give me an indication of where it stands? Green or brown?

I don't have open space to sow the manure. I am hoping to add this to my flower and raised vegetable beds. The allocated compost space is the open corner in the garden corral linked to below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Corral Album

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 1:25PM
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Very nice garden area you have there. Neat idea on the irrigation system.

My biggest worry with manure is grass seed. Seems like you already have your beds full. In which case, I'd most likely just let the manure age all on it's own in that open corner. I suspect with Spring on the horizon, you'll know within a week if the manure is full of seed. Turn a time or two this Spring/Summer and let the worms do their magic.

If it's not full of seed, work it in to your garden in the Fall and let it age further for next Spring.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 9:22AM
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I agree with tn, that you have an A+ garden.
I think your manure is dry & mostly composted.
But I can not be sure with out holding some in my hands.
So this is my best guess, but weed seeds coming up means it is ready for planting.
I would mulch with news papers or cardboard.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 10:51PM
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Find out from your source if it is straight manure or manure as the result of cleaning stalls. If it's from stalls it might help to know what type of bedding they used. I compost the stall leavings of 4 horses. Even though I refer to it as "horse manure" it is really even amounts of manure and pine pellets (that break down to dust with water), plus urine and a bit of hay.

I couldn't keep it from heating up if I tried. It starts steaming in the muck bucket sized mounds a couple days out of the stalls before I've made my weekly trip to dump it it my big compost piles. So I'd say if it's six months old and includes bedding it's been cooked already or well on its way. Mine at 6 months is good to go although I have so much of it I usually am working on an older pile. I haven't had any weed problems. Straw and the bigger shavings might take a little longer than mine.

Smell seems to be the best indicator. Even though I'll find the occasional horse apple, I can break it open and it's dark and luscious looking and smells clean. I've linked a couple pictures--it's tricky operating a FEL and a camera phone at the same time! ;) (But not as tricky as figuring out how to put pictures in a post!)

Here is a link that might be useful: Horse Manure Compost

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 8:14PM
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I used horse manure as the catalyst for my compost for many years now. mixing the material 3 parts vegetative waste to 1 part manure and have not seen any major problem with "weeds" from that manure. Some people that have put horse manure directly into the garden have had "weed" problems, often from "weeds" that could only have come from the pasture the horses grazed on.
Properly composted horse manure should not be any more of a problem then cattle, sheep, or poultry manure.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 7:12AM
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I was under the impression that the horse's digestive system was easier on seeds and that more of them survived than with cows, for example. That could be another gardener's myth. Hot composting would kill most of them of course, but the average farm manure pile may not be managed, turned or mixed, so everthing wasn't exposed to enough heat during the composting process. If one can get fresh manure and hot compost it (or re-compost already aged manure in a pile with fresh greens) as kimmsr suggests, I can see how that would cut down on seeds considerably.

Also it would depend on whether their diet included a lot of seeds in the first place.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 10:22AM
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sanctified(Zone 5)

So since I last posted here I built a compost bin. It's dimensions are 10' x 4' and is divided into two separate containers. I was able to get some cedar slats from a neighbor that was replacing his fence to use as dividers and mostly used other wood I had laying around. I think that the bin turned out nice. I have made a front for the bin and have combined everything to one pile.

I took the temperature twice last week with several days between the readings and it showed 120 degrees both times. To the manure I have added about 3 bags of grass clippings, a couple gallons of kitchen scraps, and some coffee grounds.

When I turned the pile yesterday most of it isn't clumping anymore and it doesn't smell like manure. I picked up a few handfuls and it smelled like dirt. I wonder if it is done. I don't know how long the manure was sitting before I got it but does the smell and temperature supersede the time that manure is supposed to age before being used in gardens? What do you think? Is it ready?

Sorry about the poor pics. I took them with my iPhone before work last week.

Here is a link that might be useful: Finished Compost Bin Pics

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 11:34AM
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It certainly sounds close to being done. If it was 'steaming all winter' and you composted it a few more weeks, and it smells earthy, it's probably fine.

If the temp is 120 it is still composting though, probably from the grass clippings. That's not unbearably hot, but it can stress plants if you pile it around them when it's hot. You said you were aiming for summer or fall, so may be let it sit a bit longer till the temp drops off to more like ambient daytime temps before using it. Right now you could probably dig some into a garden, but don't overdo.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 12:18PM
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sanctified(Zone 5)

I am going to buy some poultry mulch for my vegetables that I am planting this week but will let this sit for a bit longer before I add it to the flower beds. So will the temperature completely drop when its done? I haven't ever done this at home so I am not sure what the signs are showing that its finished.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 1:32PM
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Yes, the temp is a good indicator. Also the appearance -does it look uniformly brown and crumbly or can you see chunks of original ingredients? This works better with leaves, twigs and grass clippings, not so well with stuff that is crumbly to begin with. :-]

Finally, the odor. Finished compost is fresh and earthy, but if it smells like manure, it is still too close to being manure and needs to cook longer.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 4:57PM
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