Manure vs. compost

I love a good book and I love a good find. So, last night when I was curled up with a borrowing from the RHS library, I was a little dismayed to learn that the ‘free manure’ available at local farms might not be the answer to all, or any, of my prayers.

I now remember my dad saying that it was not a good idea to spread fresh muck on the garden but doesn’t time have a wonderful habit of suspending prior knowledge?

Anyway, here is a summary of what ‘How to grow food in your polytunnel all year round’ by Mark Gatter and Andy McKee told me last night:


1) Manure from a farm, if collected rather than delivered, is much more economical than buying from a garden centre. However, used fresh the high levels of nitrogen may very well damage your plants – and you may get salmonella if the food is eaten raw. In fact, it doesn’t have to be fresh to make the latter possible.

2) Compost isn’t going to be cheap from a garden centre either but you can make your own for free. And if you use the hot pile method (turning the heap every few days), you might even have a new batch within a few weeks. Of course, that does require a lot of work but whether you buy or make, compost can be used on all plants from day one.

So, it looks like I won’t be taking my bags up to the nearest farm after all, but will instead be turning that pile. At least I now understand that compost is as nutritious as manure and my car won’t smell 😉

© Helen Butt,  February 2014


About Helen

I have always been interesting in living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and used to do what I could. Now, I have come to realise that we have reached such a point in terms of environmental degradation that it is more important - perhaps - to focus on building resilience. I therefore do as much as I can to reuse, grow my own and encourage a supportive community, for example. I also keep reading and learning all the time.
This entry was posted in Gardening, Good for the environment, Health, In the kitchen, Social and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Manure vs. compost

  1. I have used horse poop from stables; but this had been decaying for years. It was more like compost than fresh poop. Fresh poop is known to burn young plants, and there are cases where some poop contains a chemical that also kills plants. I have been making my own leaf mold for the last two years by collecting leaves and leaving them in builders bags. Once decayed I put that material into the raised beds and cover with some bought compost. It’s too expensive to buy lots of compost for the raised beds, so this is useful.

  2. Lovely post Helen you could add a small bag of fresh horse poo to the bottom of your compost heap or as a layer then by the winter time it will be ready to put on your raised beds

  3. streepie says:

    We used to collect horse manure as well – but also left it to decay for a few months before putting it on the vegetable beds. So – collect your manure in late summer / early autumn, set it aside, and put in on your beds in spring – but dig it under 2-3 weeks before planting or sowing.

    Or you can add it to your compost heap, as has been suggested.

    Rhubarb loves horse manure – my mother-in-law collects horse manure in a large bucket, adds water to this, and leaves it to stand for a bit. She the uses the water to water the rhubarb.

I love to read about your own experiences and any other feedback you have, so look forward to your comments below.

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