COW MANURE as Fertilizer and Soil Amendment


Cow manure has the least amount of nitrogen of all the manures profiled in this book but it happens to be a great choice as a soil amendment because of several reasons.

Using cow manure as fertilizer

It improves soil fertility, is easy to find, is unlikely to burn plants, contains less weed seeds than horse manure, and is less apt to stunt flower or fruit development.

There’s plenty of cow poop to go around. A single cow can put out twenty-thousand pounds of manure every year! But not all cow dung is the same.

Although cow manure might be the easiest manure to collect, I stay away from farms that use hormones, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers, or plump up their cows in crowded, corn-based feed lots (there will be undigested feed in the manure).

Which Plants Benefit from Cow Manure?

Because cows produce less potent manure, most all edible crops can benefit from their waste, especially those that flower or fruit. It’s the organic matter that is most beneficial.

If you have sandy soil, cow manure can convert it to a spongier medium that holds more water. Clay soil will loosen up nicely if amended with cow manure.

Proud pumpkin growers swear that cow manure plays a huge role in growing award winning pumpkins. They amend the planting holes months prior to planting.

Recipe for Using Cow Manure as Soil Amendment in the Edible Garden

Think of cow manure as a way to replenish organic matter and a tool to get your garden into great shape for planting. It will condition the soil – especially sandy or clay soils; and will improve the efficiency of everything going on underground including nutrient utilization.

How Much, Where and How Deep?

  1. FALL: In fall mulch your garden bed with cow manure at a depth of 1-2 inches. Let it decompose and naturally work itself into the soil over winter. Once spring comes and soil can be worked, fold it into the top 4-8 inches of soil.
  2. PRE-PLANTING: To amend the soil before planting, layer manure an inch deep on top and then work into the soil 4-6 inches deep. Wait the recommended time period before planting root crops (120 days) and other edibles (90 days).
  3. SIDE DRESS: To side dress a row or planting hole, place a 1 inch thick band under the surface, 2-3 inches deep at the edge of the root zone. Again, do this well before planting according to the 120/90 day rule to prevent health hazards.
  4. RAISED BEDS: For a raised bed measuring 8 feet by 4 feet, work 3 gallons of composted cow manure into the top 4-6 inches of soil and water well. Use the 120/90 day rule.
  5. 100 SQUARE FOOT GARDEN PLOT: Use approximately 55 pounds of composted cow manure – a little over 9 gallons. Use the 120/90 day rule.

In my own garden, plants that seem to love a pre-application of composted and aged cow manure include pumpkins, corn and pole beans.

Cow Manure Tea Recipe

My favorite way to use cow manure as a soil amendment is in liquid form – a manure tea. I would call manure tea a fertilizer as well because it will feed plants right away. I prefer cow over horse manure because horse manure tends to contain more salt.

To make your own, put composted and aged cow manure (never fresh) in a small muslin bag and let it steep in a 5-gallon bucket for a couple of days, no longer, then drench your vegetable beds.  Using manure tea for fertilizer for a garden

To use composted and aged cow manure tea during growth, follow the 120/90 day rule.  Drench the soil at the drip line of the plant. Use one gallon of manure tea per large plant. Do not apply manure tea to young seed starts.

Most any composted manure will work well as manure tea if you keep in mind the nutrient value and benefits of the specific manure you’re using.

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