How to Use Horse Manure as Natural Fertilizer

How to Use Horse Manure as Natural Fertilizer

How to Use Horse Manure as Natural Fertilizer

What is Horse Manure?

Horse manure is the feces and urine produced by horses. It consists of digested hay, grains, and bedding material mixed with bacteria that aid in breaking down organic material.

Horse manure contains many nutrients that are beneficial to plants and soil. The main nutrients found in horse manure are:

  • Nitrogen – Helps plants produce healthy green growth and strong stems.

  • Phosphorus – Aids in root growth and flower/fruit production.

  • Potassium – Important for overall plant health and disease resistance.

  • Organic Matter – Improves soil structure and moisture retention.

The amount of nutrients in horse manure depends on the horse’s diet and digestive health. Manure from grass-fed horses tends to be higher in nutrients than grain-fed horses. The bedding material mixed in the manure also impacts nutrient levels.

Why Use Horse Manure as Fertilizer?

Using horse manure as a natural fertilizer has many benefits:

  • Renewable resource – Horse manure is a free abundant material produced on horse farms and boarding stables. Recycling this waste product prevents it from ending up in landfills.

  • Slow-release nutrients – The organic nature of manure allows nutrients to be released slowly as it breaks down. This provides plants with a steady feeding over many weeks or months.

  • Improves soil health – In addition to essential nutrients, horse manure contains beneficial microorganisms that enrich the soil. It increases microbial activity, aeration, and water retention in the soil.

  • Weed free – Unlike raw compost, horse manure is free of weed seeds and pathogens. This makes it ideal for fertilizing garden beds.

  • Safe for all plants – Horse manure can be used on flowers, vegetables, trees, shrubs, and lawns without risk of burn. It has a milder nutrient profile compared to other animal manures.

How to Prepare and Use Horse Manure

Follow these steps to safely prepare and use horse manure as fertilizer:

Gathering the Manure

  • Source manure from healthy grass-fed horses. Grain-fed manure may contain weed seeds.

  • Use only aged manure that has been sitting for at least 6 months. This allows pathogens to die off.

  • Screen the manure to remove any debris like rocks, nails, or hoof trimmings.

Composting the Manure (Optional)

  • Build a compost pile by layering manure with leaves, straw, and soil. Turn the pile periodically.

  • Allow the compost to break down for 9-12 months before using.

  • Composting helps kill pathogens and weed seeds in raw manure.

Applying as Fertilizer

  • For new garden beds, spread 2-3 inches of manure over the soil and till it in.

  • For established beds, apply 1 inch of composted manure and lightly mix into the top few inches of soil.

  • For lawns, use a spreader to apply a 1/4 inch layer before seeding or at the start of growing season.

  • Water gently after application to help nutrients seep into the soil.

  • Reapply every 1-2 months during the growing season for a continual feeding.

Tips for Using Horse Manure

  • Wear gloves and wash hands after handling to prevent E. coli infection.

  • Do not compost manure from horses treated with wormers or antibiotics.

  • Avoid using manure from stabled horses fed with grains and hay, as it may contain weed seeds.

  • Let composted manure age for at least 9 months before using to allow pathogens to die off.

  • Do not over-fertilize with horse manure, as excess nitrogen can damage plants.

  • Store excess manure in a covered pile until needed. Turning the pile occasionally will speed composting.

Using aged horse manure is an eco-friendly way to fertilize gardens, flower beds, and lawns. With proper preparation, it provides an abundant source of organic nutrients for vibrant plant growth. Adjust application rates based on the needs of your soil and plants.