How to Use Horse Manure as Garden Fertilizer

How to Use Horse Manure as Garden Fertilizer

How to Use Horse Manure as Garden Fertilizer

Why Use Horse Manure as Fertilizer?

Horse manure can be an excellent organic fertilizer for gardens. Here are some of the main benefits of using horse manure:

  • Nutrient rich – Horse manure contains many macro and micronutrients that are essential for plant growth, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These nutrients are released slowly over time, providing a steady feed for plants.

  • Improves soil structure – The organic matter in manure helps improve soil texture, aeration, and water retention. This creates a better environment for plant roots.

  • Increases microbial activity – Manure introduces beneficial microbes like bacteria and fungi into the soil. These microbes help break down organic matter and make nutrients available to plants.

  • Widely available – Horse manure is easy to source, as many stables are happy to let gardeners haul it away for free. This makes it a cost-effective fertilizer option.

  • Renewable resource – Using manure completes the cycle of nutrients from the land, through the animal, and back to the soil. This supports a sustainable approach to gardening.

Gathering and Preparing Horse Manure

Gathering quality horse manure takes a bit of effort but pays off in the long run. Here are some tips:

  • Contact local stables or horse owners to ask about collecting manure. Offer to load and haul it yourself.

  • Choose manure from grass-fed horses, as it will have higher nutrient levels than manure from grain-fed horses.

  • Let the manure age for 6 months before using. This allows pathogens like E. coli to die off.

  • Stockpile the manure in a covered area to protect it from leaching nutrients in heavy rain. Turn the pile periodically.

  • Screen the manure to remove sizable wood chips, rocks, or other debris that could hamper application.

  • Be aware that herbicide-treated hay can transfer residues to the manure. Ask the stable owner about their hay source.

With a bit of planning, you can collect excellent composted horse manure for free!

Using Horse Manure in the Garden

Horse manure can be worked into garden beds prior to planting or used as a top dressing around established plants. Here are some tips on application:

  • For new beds, spread 2-3 inches of composted manure and work it into the top 6 inches of soil. Let it sit for 2-3 weeks before planting.

  • For established plants, apply a 1-2 inch layer of manure and lightly fork it into the top few inches of soil. Pull mulch back first if needed.

  • Target heavy feeding plants like tomatoes, squash, melons, and corn with extra manure by working it into each planting hole.

  • Use manure tea (compost soaked in water) to provide an extra nutrient boost for seedlings or stressed plants.

  • Limit manure use around shallow-rooted plants like lettuce that don’t need high nutrient levels.

  • Wear gloves and wash produce well, as raw manure can harbor pathogens. Composting the manure first reduces this risk.

With some common sense precautions, horse manure can be a safe and extremely effective fertilizer for home gardens!

Benefits of Horse Manure for Specific Plants

Certain plants gain particular benefits from horse manure’s nutritional profile. Here are some top matches:

  • Tomatoes – Horse manure provides steady nitrogen for excellent tomato growth and fruit production. Spread 1-2 inches prior to planting.

  • Peppers – The phosphorus in manure aids flowering and fruiting for peppers. Work 2 inches into soil before transplanting.

  • Carrots – Loose, manure-enriched soil helps carrots grow straight and robust. Mix into carrot bed soil 2 weeks before sowing.

  • Onions – Onions thrive with phosphorus and potassium from manure for bulbing. Lightly work 1 inch into the topsoil in spring.

  • Squash – High nitrogen requirements make squash a perfect match for manure. Provide 2-3 inches in each hill before planting.

  • Leafy greens – For lettuce, spinach, and kale, manure supplies steady nitrogen without excess nutrients. Top dress around plants.

With a little strategic application, horse manure can give your fruits, vegetables, and flowers exactly what they need!


Horse manure is a versatile, widely available garden fertilizer that boosts soil health, provides essential nutrients, and supports vigorous plants. With proper sourcing, preparation, and application, horse manure can greatly enrich your garden soil and aid plant growth. Work this organic material into your beds and borders and see your garden thrive!