horse manure application

dregaeDecember 5, 2012

I have the opportunity to get some composted horse manure for free, but I was wondering when would be the best to apply it. Should I wait till spring, or go ahead and apply it now. I don't want to encourage any new growth, I have never used horse manure before so I would appreciate any advice.

grace e

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jerijen(Zone 10)

In our experience, the application of horse manure produced a LOT of new growth and bloom.

I don't know what your climate is, so I cannot say if that is a good idea where you are. (It would be fine in Southern CA, but perhaps not in 6a Indiana?)


    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 6:55PM
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seil zone 6b MI

If your roses are already dormant for the winter you can go ahead and apply it now for great growth next spring. If they're still growing I'd wait until they are fully dormant to put it on. You don't want to encourage a lot of new growth this late in the season that will deplete your rose's stored energy for next spring and you'll just lose over the winter anyway.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 4:06PM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

I have been using horse manure for 2 years in zone 5a. Horse manure is low in nitrogen, but high in potassium. Potassium is needed for winter hardiness and to fight diseases.

It's best to test the pH in horse manure before using it. I outlined a procedure to test your pH using 50 cents of fresh red cabbage and $1 of distilled water. If you google in this forum for "red cabbage juice and pH" you will find the procedure.

From my experience, be careful of what you get: stay away from the fresh nice looking stuff, it's full of weeds or oats seeds and will sprout in your garden. What you want is the DARKEST STUFF at the bottom of the pile, where it's heated enough to kill weed seeds. Also if the stable uses lime to deodorize their stalls, the accumulated lime will make the horse manure pH HIGHEST, or most alkaline in late fall.... for that reason I don't get horse manure during late fall, where I tested the pH to be above 8.

In the spring and summer, the horse manure doesn't have the accumulated lime problem, and the pH is around 7.5, not bad.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 8:26PM
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Another tip with manure. If horses are getting 100% alfalfa (or their poop is quite green), probably not to sorry about seeds. If they are getting grain feeds (and/or their poop is tanish/brown) - grain will sprout.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 10:03PM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

I talked to owner of the stable in zone 5a. He said he uses "shell lime" or calcium carbonate to deodorize the stalls. I checked with the chemist in the Soil Forum, and he said calcium carbonate stays put where it's applied, and doesn't travel to the root zone.

Warm-zoners don't lime their stalls, but cold zoners do so due to VERY enclosed stall, thus little ventilation in cold zone. My zone 5a windchill factor is below minus 20 degrees, so horse stall can stink up in closed stable, and lime is used to deodorize the stall.

If the stall uses quick lime, or calcium oxide, then it would be more caustic, and would raise the pH considerably when dissolved in water to produce calcium hydroxide. The hydrated lime is used in water-treatment plant to remove phosphates from sewage water. If your water is alkaline and heavily treated with lime so it won't corrode pipes, then the hydrated lime will bind up with phosphorus in your soil, thus less blooms on roses.

One way to test for lime in your water is to use fish-tank litmus paper sold at Walmart for $4. It's best to call the horse stable to see what type of lime they use? Shell lime (calcium carbonate) or quick lime (calcium oxide) will react with water to form hydrated lime (calium hydroxide).

University of Colorado does NOT recommend horse manure for their dry climate and limestone soil due to: 1) salt build-up in frequent horse manure applications 2) raising of pH if quick lime is used to deodorize the stall 3) nitrogen-depletion since the woodchips, straw, or sawdust bedding that horse manure comes with will rob the soil of nitrogen as it breaks down.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 5:39PM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

Glad I am not in the cold and wet!

No wood chips in our horse manure, no lime either and alfalfa fed only.

Of course I do have to do my own collecting...with horses curious as to why I want that stuff and hoping I have a treat with me.

I do have to email the guy that is giving away composted, 5 month horse-bat-chicken manure. That has to be something! (but will probably store til spring)

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 7:29PM
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I strongly suspect that the trigger for using lime isn't the closed up stables in cold regions as much as it is what the stall flooring material is. Years ago the most common stall floor was clay or dirt, today it is very common to use concrete and/or crushed stone that is covered with rubber mats. When the floors are pervious to urine--dirt/clay--the urine soaks through the bedding into the floor and can't be removed simply by cleaning the stalls. It is the wet spot in the floor that never seems to dry that smells and that the lime is used to treat. Rubber mats allow the for better (healthier!) moisture/urine management which is why we have seen such a huge change over to them in the last couple decades.

Compost from stables with impervious flooring like rubber mats may have benefits over dirt floors because more urine (nitrogen) is in the composted bedding since it is soaked up by the bedding and not the floor.

Be very careful with any generalizations about content or quality concerning compost from stables. Everything from concentrate and forage diets, bedding, turnout schedules, pasture management, flooring, drugs and medication, to what kind of herbicide was used by the farmer who grew the hay can play a role in the resulting compost! Nobody manages all these factors the same way. As we say: 2 horse people, 3 opinions (at least!)

I would suggest the best thing to do would be once you find a source that works for you to stick with that source and learn what the variances are specific to your source.

To the OP--sorry to get side tracked. I'm sure that's more information than you ever wanted to know about equine management! ;-) I use my horse manure compost as a top dressing--like mulch--then let the worms and rain work the good stuff into the soil. So it is very slow release AND it is a very modest fertilizer since manure composts generally test as a fertilizer around 1-1-1 or maybe 2-2-2. Last fall I threw compost mulch on a few roses and had no problems and happy roses come spring.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 7:58PM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

Subk3, my grandmother used to throw the fresh manure on her roses too. They did great and she was at about the 55th parallel in Denmark (in the baltic sea so not as cold as other places on that parallel) Of course, she grew only roses that would survive there to begin with. (No idea of the seasons she used it, but some years the snow was roof high and others just a dusting)

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 8:28PM
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When you use horse manure or any compost for that matter, should you still fertilize roses or is the compost enough. If you still fertilize what should you use and when. I would want to burn them with to much stuff

Grace e

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 4:14AM
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Whoops, meant to say "I wouldn't want to burn them." Did that once by accident.

Grace e

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 4:16AM
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It's good to see so many people using horse doo. I also find it interesting that many of the responses are location related. And so shall be my response.
Beginning in mid-October I apply fresh manure to the vegetable garden. I then move on to the rose and flower beds..again fresh manure. I use composted around bands or baby rose bushes. I pay no attention to ph..why?
Here in the pacific north-west it rains and rains. The ph alo0ng with summer fertilizing is flushed out.
In the spring - mid-April - I apply composted horse doo.
Any plants, bushes, roses which appear to be struggling during the summer are given a manure tea bath.
This method creates an environment which helps plants to slowly but steadily grow. I dont use any store bought fertilizers nor any chemicals.
Again this is what works in my location and with 2 yearling horses we have plenty of doo.I guess I should add that they are fed alfalfa and timothy hay only so weeds are not a concern. My feed bill well that's another story.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 8:13AM
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In my climate, and gardening in full sand, I don't seem to be able to put too much manure on my beds. I use fresh and well composted as mulch, whenever I feel motivated to do so. My horses eat 50% oat hay, so I end up pulling out a LOT of oat growth in the beds, but for me it's worth it. I'm not used to dealing with any stall chemicals (except fly spray in the summer) as we use straw for bedding (no grain growth from that) on top of rubber mats.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 10:20AM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

I respect Mike_Rivers' research on horse manure, he's a retired chemist and rosarian. It's OK to use manure if one is in a rainy climate, but the salt-buildup is a concern in a dry and warm climate. Mike_Rivers pointed out that horse manure is 1/4 in salt content compared to other manures, but alfalfa is still best in the long run.

For example, I get 40 inches of rain, and 38 inches of snow per year in zone 5a. I don't water my azaleas nor rhododrendrons for the past 12 years. This year I tried acid-fertilizer Lily Miller NPK of 10-5-4, which has chicken manure, and some fast release nitrogen. I have to water my acid-plants for the first time, since they get droopy in hot summer. My take: horse manure is OK once a year, but repeated use in a dry climate can lead to salt build-up. Below is what Mike_Rivers wrote ... he's a retired chemist and rosarian in his 70's, and I respect his experience:

Posted by mike_rivers z5 MI (My Page) on Sun, Feb 22, 09 at 8:27

Supposedly, what burns plant foliage or roots is a fast release of ammonia gas from either uric acid or urea when manures are placed in contact with the soil. Mammals excrete their excess nitrogen as urea, mostly in their urine. Birds excrete their excess nitrogen as uric acid, mostly in their feces rather than in their urine.

Presumably, then, if you apply solid cow or horse manures which contain little of the mammal's urine, you will not burn your roses. On the other hand, solid chicken manure, even when totally free of urine, can potentially burn your roses.

If I had a free and convenient sources of manure, I would certainly use it, with due caution, as a fertilizer and as a source of organic matter. But if the manure were not free or convenient, I would substitute alfalfa meal without a moment's hesitation. Alfalfa meal is cheap, odorless, almost never burns plants (its nitrogen is in the form of protein and protein is converted to ammonia at a much slower rate in the soil), and provides about 3 times as much nitrogen as the usual animal manures on a weight-for- weight basis. For example, the NPK value for horse manure is 0.7, 0.3, 0.6. (see link), while a conservative estimate for alfalfa is 3.0, 1.0, 2.0. Who needs manure?

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 4:56PM
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"When you use horse manure or any compost for that matter, should you still fertilize roses or is the compost enough. If you still fertilize what should you use and when. I wouldn't want to burn them with to much stuff"

Grace I hope someone posts an answer, because I sure don't know it. How do you augment fertilization when you use manure compost? Hmm...

I've grown perennials for a couple decades, adding roses in the mix is new to me. When I moved to a farm and moved my horses home I did a lot of reading about composting manure. It was biggest break through I've had as a gardner. What changed was I started focusing on feeding my soil instead of feeding my plants.

I have clay soil. Most people hate it, but the truth is as far as content goes it is really great stuff. It's full on nutrients, minerals and micro stuff that is just wonderful for plants. My soil tests come back super. What stinks is that the particle size is very small and it is prone to compact. When it is compacted among other things it reduces the oxygen and and impedes the flow of water--two very bad things for growing plants.

I use compost not to feed my plants and not really as fertilizer--I use it to feed my soil and add things to it that make it a better growing medium. Things beyond just N and P and K. What I've found with my perennials is that once the soil was lovely fluffy stuff that has oxygen, can regulate moisture and feed the worms and all the other life in the soil food web that without the addition of "fertilizer" the plants have gone nuts.

With horses ;-) I'd tell you it's the difference between what the bag says the nutritional content is and how much of that nutrition is actually presented in a form and fashion that allows it to be digested. With plants the compost improved the flawed delivery system that wasn't allowing the plants to get what was already there in the soil.

So, who needs manure? Me, me, me, me mememememe!!!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 7:03PM
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@subk3 I hope someone knows as well, because I sure don't :-) Anyone know if you should fertilize if you use manure??

grace e

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 1:31AM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

I NEVER fertilized my acid-loving plants for the past 12 years when I DID NOT WATER them. Acid fertilizer Lilly Miller with chicken manure is the only stuff I use this year on azaleas and rhodos, and I have to water them for the first time.

I used horse manure with alfalfa meal on my roses ... they bloom great in spring rain (acidic at pH 5.6), but less with my alkaline tap water.

NPK of alfalfa hay is 2.4/0.5/2.1 NPK of alfalfa meal is 2-1-2, and NPK of horse manure is 0.4/0.2/0.3 When I use horse manure with alfalfa meal, I'm still short on phosphorus, which EarthCo. tested my soil to be deficient.

Grace: A soil test for $20 by Earthco. is worth the money to see what your soil is deficient in, and what type of fertilizer to use. For $30 they also test other trace elements like boron, iron, along with the basic test of Organic matter, P, K, magnesium, and calcium. If your soil is tested deficient in calcium, then using afalfa is great (it's high in calcium).

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 11:34AM
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karl_bapst_rosenut(5a, NW Indiana)

The nitrogen content of horse manure is very low. In the past I applied it 4 inches deep in the fall and never worried about it being fresh or not. The biggest benefit I experienced was it enriched the soil with organics and promoted lots of worms. Four inches in the fall resulted in about a half inch or less layer of very dark compost on the surface of my beds each spring. I never noticed any additional new growth if applied prior to the roses going dormant due to the time it takes for manure to break down into a usable form. By the time fall applied manure breaks down, the soil is frozen (in zone 5a anyway) and microbe activity ceases until it thaws in spring.
By then the manure give the roses a kick start.
If your soil normally freezes, apply the manure now and don't worry if it's fresh or not. With most any horse manure you'll get weeds but I consider that part of growing roses or any plant. Cardboard or newspapers over the weeds covered by compost or mulch will kill the weeds.
Me thinks we worry too much about some things.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 4:03PM
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Mushroom compost from Lowe's works well for me and if I'm lucky I can get some mushroom compost from the local mushroom grower. I use horse in the fall only and chicken the rest of the time.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 3:01PM
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Ah - so nice to see a Karl answer. And I think this year I will try the cardboard & paper trick under the mulch for weed control - thanks for the reminder. I never mind the growth from the manure as it pulls out so easy.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 6:55PM
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