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The Best Type of Manure for Vegetable Gardens

What is the best type of manure for vegetable gardens? There's a lot out there to choose from. Here's the dirt on the dung.

My summer cookouts are not for the faint of heart. It’s not that there’s anything scary or bad. But conversations tend to skip the polite weather talk and get straight into things like garden pests, favorite heirloom tomatoes, and the best type of manure for vegetable gardens. Hey, at least we don’t talk about it at the dinner table. Well, not often anyway. 

It’s a serious topic, though, because there are a lot of manures out there. Chicken, cow, goat, sheep, pig, horse, and even rabbit manure are all options for the discerning gardener. Some are more preferable than others (hence the title of this blog post), and some require more or less work on your part. 

There is some good news, however. Despite the joking around, most manure, when it’s ready for the garden, shouldn’t have much of a smell at all. 

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Do you know the best type of manure for vegetable gardens? Here are the pros and cons of some of the most common types.

Chicken manure. By some accounts, chicken manure is the best type of manure for vegetable gardens because it’s so rare that weed seeds make it through the chicken digestive tract. But you can’t use fresh chicken manure. It’s high in nitrogen, which plants do need, but too much will burn the roots. You’ll need to either buy composted chicken manure, compost it yourself, or work it into the soil at the end of the season, so it has time to break down before you start your spring planting. 

Cow manure. Cow manure is probably the easiest to come by. Aside from chicken manure, cow manure is also in the running for the best type of manure for vegetable gardens. It tends to be well-balanced, easily accessible, and easily compostable. Because cows have four stomachs, the manure is usually very low in weed seeds. Like chicken manure, you’ll need to buy cow manure ready to use, compost it yourself, or work it into the soil well ahead of time. 

Horse manure. Horse manure is an option. It makes a nice all-purpose addition to a garden, and it’s plentiful. However, there’s a much greater chance that horse manure will contain weed seeds, as compared to cow manure. That shouldn’t be a problem if you compost it, as the heat will kill the seeds, but it’s always good to know these things.

Rabbit manure. Rabbits can give gardeners a lot of grief. One ate my echinacea and my basil just this week. But rabbits also give us what many gardeners consider the best type of manure for vegetable gardens. It’s super nutritious, with plenty of nitrogen and phosphorous, and it doesn’t require very much work on your part. The Michigan State University extension program says that “rabbit manure has four times more nutrients than cow or horse manure and is twice as rich as chicken manure.” Composting is recommended, but if you’re in a bind, you don’t need to compost it; you can add it right in. 

Any composted manure should be relatively odor-free and will bring benefits to your garden. So just because you might not be able to get rabbit manure, don’t ignore the benefits of horse manure. 

One last word, though. Be aware of where your manure comes from. A local farm or other trusted source is ideal. Remember, whatever is in that manure ends up in your garden. 

Do you use manure as a soil amendment or fertilizer in your garden? What kind of results have you had?

Discover 7 top tips for growing, harvesting, and enjoying tomatoes from your home garden—when you access the FREE guide The Best Way to Grow Tomatoes, right now!

Comments
  • Doris H.

    I like sheep manure because sheep are not usually bedded on shavings, so the product is not as course. I use it mainly in potted plants in the greenhouse, and in raised beds where I will be growing root crops such as carrots or beets. Some of the ones from shavings can produce more forked carrots or misshapen roots.

    Reply
  • eddie d.

    I use rabbit manure. I have a 30 gallon trash can that I add 3 gallons of manure, fill with water and let it sit about 2 weeks. Just stir and water the plants with the “manure water”. No seeds or weeds.

    Reply

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