The Q&A Archives: Horse Manure

Question: It is January 2, and we have not had any days above freezing for at least a month. I live in Massachusetts. I work in a horse stable.We use wood shaving for bedding in the stalls. I would like to be able to use the manure in my vegetable garden. From what I have read from your other answers about horse manure the best thing to do is to compost it. Is this possible to do in the winter when it is so cold? Or should I just spread it on top of the snow for the remainder of the winter and till it in when I plant the end of April-Beginning of May. Also how deep should I spread the manure. Since I have daily access to the manure I can bring home as much as I want to shovel.

Answer: Such a steady supply of organic matter is excellent but unfortunately, it is not a good idea to use fresh horse manure on a garden because it will "burn" the plants. Ideally it would be aged for up to a year or composted prior to use. The composting process does not happen when temperatures are cold, so you will not be able to compost it over the winter. It would be better to dig it into the garden in the fall so it has ample time to break down before you begin planting, or possibly compost it during the summer and then when it is finished, use it as a soil amendment or mulching material. Once composted, you could certainly spread a layer several inches thick of compost at a time.

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