Manure Guide

When to Spread What

May 16, 2008

Manure creates nutrient-rich, moisture-retaining soil for your plants.

The most common sources of manure are cows, horses, sheep, pigs, goats, and poultry. 

(Other animal waste is generally not recommended as manure or fertilizer today.)

See our chart below for the best type of manure for your garden—and the best time to apply.


Type of Garden Best Type of Manure Best Time to Apply
Flower cow, horse early spring
Vegetable chicken, cow, horse fall, spring
Potato or root crop chicken, cow, horse fall, spring
Acid-loving plants
(blueberries, azaleas, mountain laurel, rhododendrons)
cow, horse early fall or not at all


Reader Comments

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Where does alpaca poop fit into this table please? Are there certain times of year it should be used ?

animal manure

hi sir, I want to know, what is the best quantity of animal manure should be added to clay, and silty clay soils (kg/m2).

Freeze drying alpaca manure

If I was to freeze dry Alpaca manure, does it need to age a certain amount of time?

Llama and Alpaca Manure

The Editors's picture

Hi Mark,

Llama and alpaca manure are both a “cold” manure, which means they can be added directly to a garden without needing to be composted. So no, you do not need to age your alpaca manure before freeze-drying.

Mixing cow manure and kitchen scrap compost

Can I mix these two together to use around tomatoes and beans and asparagus? Both compost and manure have been aging for over a yr. I turn them a lot.

benefits of compost

Composting reduces landfill allowing biodegradable materials to breakdown naturally.
Organic materials in landfill produce toxins when air cannot reach the biodegradable waste.
Organics broken down above ground turn into productive fertilizer.
Composting saves money on landfill costs and chemical fertilizer.
Composting saves the planet by utilizing its natural resources.

What to compost?

What to compost?
Water treatment residuals:
Industrial and municipal
Pharmaceutical residuals, including charcoal
Class A and Class B biosolids (lime stabilization not required)
Alum and ferrous sludge

Wood and fiber:
Yard waste
Waxed and unwaxed cardboard
Chips and sawdust
Charcoal and ash

Construction and demolition debris:
Drywall (untreated and unpainted)
Dimensional lumber (untreated and unpainted)
Land clearing debris (vegetation, limbs, soil)

Food waste (pre- and post-consumer):
Scraps and culls
PLA (biodegradable plastic)
Processing by-products
Cooking oil and grease
DAF sludge

Agricultural wastes and by-products:
Sweepings, manures and bedding
Hatchery by-products
Processing by-products (dust, mote)
Effluent and separated solids


If I were to do only 5 tomato plants with rooster booster, which is chicken manure. How many bags do you think I should get.

How Much Composted Chicken Manure to Use

Hi, I rent a 20x20 plot in a local community garden for vegetables. We used local horse manure last year to fertilize, but it sure brought a ton of weeds with it. This year I want to purchase organic composted chicken manure from the local farmer's supply store. I just need to know how many 1.5 cf bags of chicken manure is appropriate for this size of garden. Thank you in advance for any help you can offer.

How Much Compost

The Editors's picture

Hi Martha,

An appropriate amount of compost would be a 3-inch layer on top of your entire plot, tilled into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil. The 3-inch layer needs to be converted into feet first. 3 inches divided by 12 = .25 feet. .25 (the depth in feet) is then multiplied by the total square feet of the garden (20 x 20 = 400 square feet), which equals 100 cubic feet. That’s the total approximate volume of compost that you need. To find out how many bags you need, just take the total volume (100 cubic feet) and divide by the bag size (1.5 cubic feet), which equals 66.7 bags (round to 67 bags to make it easier). 

We hope this helps! 

Hi I'm in the process of

Hi I'm in the process of tilling a small section of my back yard to grow a few vegetables. I'm new at this and will be getting some manure from Lowe's. How long should I let it stand before planting. I live in SC..thank you

Rabbit Manure

You never mention one of the best natural fertilizers in the world. Rabbit manure. Doesn't burn. Doesn't need to be composted. Can use straight from the source and it makes a fantastic worm bed. I have raised rabbits for years and have used their manure for planting just about everything. I've even planted in straight rabbit manure to prove that it won't burn plants, young or old. I even use it to start seeds. It's fantastic to help build up the poor soil and great for helping break up heavy clay soils like we had. My Daylily bed and Iris bed went crazy after I added rabbit manure to them. I have to thin them out every couple of years or so or the plants get so thick that they quit thriving. I even grew Indian Corn one year in a bed that I fertilized with rabbit manure and got so many ears of corn that I couldn't even give them away any more. I gave my mother a 50 lb feed bag of rabbit manure for Mother's Day one year and she was tickled pink!! Her roses, many of them old heritage roses, spouted new growth and bloomed like there was no tomorrow. Everyone wanted to know her secret.

Fresh vs Old


I have a two questions. I am starting a new compost batch to be ready for use next spring and a friend offered "fresh" or "older" horse manure. I am thinking I should use "fresh" as I will be working on this batch ( adding browns, greens and turning ) during this coming year... yes ? My other question is I am turning a section of lawn into a flower bed this spring. The soil is heavy clay and I was going to add peat, coffee grounds, last year's compost and I was thinking of adding manure. Being that it is going to be an immediate flower bed I should use "older" manure or purchase bagged manure from a garden center.. ?

Pig, sheep, and goat manure

You mentioned pig, sheep, and goat manure in the article, but then never explained anything about them :(. I have goats (I'm new to them, though), so I'm mainly interested in that info, but I'm sure there are pig and sheep people wanting to know about their poo, too! I've been told that goat poo, like rabbit poo, is safe "fresh from the factory". True? What if it has hay or straw mixed in with it? We're becoming inundated with goat poo and trying to figure out what to do with it besides putting it in a big pile in the back of the property. Maybe bagging and selling to gardeners? Advice, please :) !

goat manure

The Editors's picture

We, and others, believe it is better to be safe than sorry: In this case, better to age manure than to use it fresh. Frankly, opinions on direct use of fresh goat poop vs aged are all over the place. It is generally considered “cool” (not hot or burning) and that’s why some people say you can use it directly. But if you compost it, it needs only about 90 days in the compost bin to be really ready; not a year or so like the “hot” stuff (and its size helps to aerate the other material in there). Composting would help to eliminate any pathogens (disease carrying micro-organisms).

As for the hay/straw, hay may have seeds in it that leads to nuisance growth later. You are better off using straw, which is/should be free of seed. (The same reason why “straw bales” are better than “hay bales” for gardening or mulching.)

Consider making two or three piles (instead of one), of variously aged material (90 days, 60 days, 30 days). Gardeners might be more interested if they know it’s composted, too…because of exactly the questions you raise.

Topdressing vrs Tilling in

I am starting a first year garden, 20x30 ft in an area that currently is saturated from rain, has clay soils, and covered with short ("wild/not planted intentionally) grass. I purchased 3 yards of aged (three years) horse manure at a good price from a neighbor. I would like to make "raised" mounds/rows without the borders of wood (like a very tiny-tiny-farm).

My Question is: is there any advise as to if I should top-dress directly on top of the grass/crummy soil? Should I till what I have gotten in to the soil? Do I need to remove the "sod" before either approach? Also do I need to add many amendments/other compost/wood chips? (Also, a bonus question, I live in a coastal area if anyone with experience on using kelp in any way wants to elaborate) Thanks!!

where to start

The Editors's picture

To our minds, there is no one/single way to make a garden ready, and we only know your site as you describe it, so we have these suggestions based on that (all available by searching on this web site):

• Do a soil test

• About the weeds:

• if the area is saturated and has clay, you need to improve the drainage (plants won’t thrive in soil that does not drain). See here for suggestions on soil testing and amendments, including kelp: This video provides insights, too:

• In this blog post, a gardener describes using black plastic to eliminate weeds—but your first challenge is drainage:

• Your manure is enviable, but we would suggest mixing it with compost and peat (see the amendments in the link above) to make the best use of it.

• In the course of this, esp when amending the lot to improve drainage, we would remove the weeds/grass; not turn them under. Removing does not promise elimination; weeds and weed grass can appear anywhere. But to minimize it, mulch after you plant.

If you amend the drainage and clay issues well now, you should not have to do it again to the same degree.

And while you’re at it, you should begin a compost heap:

Good luck! Be assured that it is all worth the effort.

Can using horse manure compost in my garden cause a fungus?

I used local aged horse manure compost in my garden boxes last year and many of my plants got a fungus. The plants included tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers. I didn't use the horse manure in all of my garden boxes but the plants with fungus contained the horse manure. I also used a fungicide my farming friend recommended. Was the fungus caused by the horse manure? And if so, what can I do for this next growing season to prevent that from happening again?
I also live in a zone 3, all four seasons. I don't know if that affects anything.

funky fungi in manure

The Editors's picture

Hi, Morgan, Although aged and composted, your manure may not have had the proper carbon (you need a lot of carbon, such as leaves among other things) /nitrogen (you need less; straw and grass clippings) balance; the ration should be about 15:1. As a result, it probably did not “cook” properly. And it may not have been turned enough (introducing enough oxygen)…essentially, it may have been half baked. It takes time and energy and space (minimum 3 feet sq by 3 to 4 feet high) to properly compost animal manure. A “finished” compost pile will be about half its original size. There are several fungi and spores that can exist in horse manure, btw.

The best thing to do for this growing season may be to buy composted material from a source you trust and keep the horse manure pile cooking til next year.

Growing Plants from my Urban Balcony Garden, Singapore.

I was looking for information on fertilisers (NPK) and came across your website. It was so enjoyable to read all the questions and your expert Almanac advice. How I envy you guys...owning big plots of land with horses and chicken running around. I live in a tiny Singapore island which is only 719.1 sq km (277.6 sq miles). and trying to grow my fruit trees in 700mm (27.56 inches) diameter pots in my 200 sq. ft. urban balcony garden in everyday 33C (91.4F) weather ... and never heard of Spring and Fall. Am glad I "bumped" into you The Old Farmer's Almanac. Thanks. Shao :))

Composted chicken manure

I have chicken manure that has been ageing in a pile for almost a year, I'm concerned that it is too rich to plant directly into it. Will rinsing with water to make a tea that I can apply to other crops be enough to make it a usable soil?

Chickening Out

The Editors's picture

Hi, Jim: Aging for a year will usually do the trick of calming down chicken manure, and rinsing it will further do so, but at the end of the day it is often too strong to be used as a sole planting medium. Don’t know what the chickens were up to, but we once had some that even after well more than a year was pretty much radioactive (only kidding, don’t quote us). It’s best to use it as an amendment to other rich soil. Thanks for asking and good luck!

Aged cow manure

My cow manure is over 4 years old and has aged in a leaky shed w/ no walls in over 50°C temperature. It's still clumpy, yet very dry in it's origanal form and received no "composting treatment". I plan to mix it with sawdust and till it between rows of tiny corn, beans and peanuts with the hoe. I know many nutrients have been lost, but it should be "safe" as far as e-coli, bacteria etc. for growing crops. Or would it be risky to use it. I'm trying to multiply seed and food, not disease. Also I have a bit of melon, cucumber and "yucca", the root that makes tapioca. Thanks for any caution or advice. I plan to mix up the old bs, unless I receive a warning. Thanks for all the good info.

Manure Borne Disease

The Editors's picture

Hi Don,

Good question to ask! While it certainly commendable that you want to use an organic growing system, there are enough studies out there to suggest you should start with fresh, properly composted manure from a safe source. Another thing to note: contaminated runoff from improperly maintained compost pile is a potential source of disease agents. You may want to check your shed to ensure it isn’t leaking into a nearby water source.

4 year old dry cow dung

Thanks for your reply. No problem w/ watershed contamination. The ranchito is high in the hills, with the closest creek @ 4 km distance and it only runs @ 2 mos. per year. Complete drought @ 9 mos a year. Also the dung stayed dry and intact: I picked it up in about 3 grain bags which deteriorated with damp dew, animals etc. My sécific question is "4 years dry". Is that long enough to make the manure bacterias inert for active crop fertilization. I'm pretty sure it wont hurt root systems, and the aztec corn(black), peanuts and brown beans (bayou) should be safe, but maybe the melon (honeydew) and cucumbers might be better off without the "hoe-down" and rain "hose down" of 4 year manure. Also, the peanuts will get a healthy dose right up to their chinny chins of not so fresh bs & a sprinkle right on top as soon as the flowers begin to bud. Many thanks and any comments welcome. I cant afford to buy processed manure and reckon 4 years should incapacitate active organisms. I browsed national organic standards whose strictest standards allow for 1 year minimum plus "compost processing".


this site is too technical, not the farmers almanac that i remember.
if you have a passion for a garden, you will mostly enjoy figuring it out.

Need Cow Manure

I need to find a place from Ft. Lauderdale area to South Miami area that sells cow manure in bulk. I have a pickup truck that can handle the weight. Please include cost for a normal pickup truck bed load. Will pick up


Can you please advise me
What is seasoned manure based compost
Thanks Kevin

Composted manure

Catherine Boeckmann's picture

Manure is one type of organic compost used to build soil, but there are many safety issues with fresh manure.  (Never apply fresh manure to growing good crops.) It’s best to let the manure “compost” first. This means letting it “season” or age by having it sit in a pile for 6 to 10 or more weeks, adding high carbon material, such as sawdust, straw, dried leaves or wood chips. Turn it weekly. You can also buy composted manure in bags from any garden store.