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Cow Manure Fertilizer For
Growing Vegetables


Photo of cow manure fertilizer Fresh cow manure

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Cow Manure Fertilizer

Fresh manures from cattle and other ruminant animals, goats and sheep amongst the most common, contain cellulose decomposing bacteria along with active digestive enzymes. These enzymes contribute to faster heating of the manure which accelerates the decomposition of organic materials by the soil microorganisms. The end result of better decomposition of organic material is faster nutrient release to the plant.

While cow manure is excellent for growing vegetables it is not recommended to use fresh manure directly on the growing area because they will burn tender plant roots. It should instead be either;

  • Applied to an area for future use as sheet compost
  • Dug into the garden and allowed to age for at least 30 days
  • Composted in a conventional compost heap

Aged Manure

Cow manure fertilizer in all forms are a good addition to the vegetable garden. However the nutrient value does differ greatly. If you obtain manure that has been heaped up and permitted to heat up, a lot of its nitrogen may already have dissipated as ammonia. Much of the valuable digestive enzymes will also have been destroyed by the high temperatures at the heap's core.

A similar loss of digestive enzymes happens when manure from cattle is dried and bagged. Usually, dried manure comes from feedlots where it has also first been stacked wet and gone through a violent heating process. So if you were going to use bagged dried manure it isn’t going to be as rich in nitrogen as fresh manure.

While cow manure and manure from all cattle types do add good nutrients to the vegetable garden they are not abundantly high in any of them. The main value, apart from the nutrients and trace element that they do supply, lies in the other properties of cow manure.

Of all the animal manures commonly available, excluding horse manure, cow manure will supply the best bulk form of organic matter to the garden. The fantastic soil conditioning ability of cow manure due to the amount of quality organic matter, that no processed fertilizer can match, is reason enough to use cow manure fertilizer whenever possible to the garden. The soil amending properties of this really great natural fertilizer has to be used to be properly appreciated.


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Bedding Manures

Bedding manures are available from different animals that are confined either inside or out. Most of the bedding manure from cattle comes from feedlots where sawdust or wood-chips are used mainly for the cattle’s comfort.

While these do have valuable amounts of cow manure fertilizer in them the high carbon content of the bedding is going to significantly reduce their value as a nutrient source. This is even more so when the feedlot is outside exposed to the weather rather than being on an indoor feedlot situation.


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Application Methods

  • Sheet compost
  • Broadcast
  • Side dressing

How much is enough? Good question, without going into the details of how much organic matter your soil already contains any amount close to 25-100 lb’s per 100 square feet will significantly change the soil structure for the better.

Remember, that organic matter is depleted every day as it is broken down by the soil microorganisms and their friends. So replenishing organic matter in the soil to continuously supply the hungry vegetable gardens with the nutrients they need is a never ending job.

Sheet Composting

You can spread the manure out over the garden as part of a sheet composting mix and leave it to over winter before folding it into the top 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) with shovel or rotary tiller-hoe. Using the 25-50 lb’s per 100 square feet figure when added to the other organic material of the sheet composting mix will give you a garden soil that will produce extremely well and would be all the fertilizer needed to grow any crop.

Broadcast

Broadcast evenly over plot and spade, roto-till or otherwise work into the top soil, preferable, at least 30 days before planting. This is again using the 25-50 lb’s per 100 square feet mention above

Side dressing

For all types of cattle manure, spread a band of manure 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick and 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) wide down each side of the row. Placing each band of manure at the edge of the plant root zone and work it lightly into the top 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) of soil.

For side dressing individual plants, form a shallow trench around the plant and as for side dressing a row work the same amount of manure into the soil before replacing the soil.

If the garden is mulched, rake it back to the edge of the plant root zone in order to apply the band of manure the same as the method above, then re-cover with the mulch.

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