Is Manure and Compost the Same Thing?
Whether you are looking to garden for the first time or have decided that you want to grow more organic fruits and vegetables, then you have probably heard that compost and/or manure can be used to organically fertilize your garden.
If you have never used organic fertilizers before you may be wondering if there is a difference between compost and manure or at least whether compost and manure serve the same purpose when used in your garden.
So, is compost and manure the same thing?
The simple answer is that while both compost and manure are used to add nutrients to the soil and are both organic, they are not the same thing. Which one of these organic fertilizers is best for you may depend on your situation as well as what you are growing.
Learning a little bit more about compost and manure will help you to decide which of these organic substances will work best for you.
What is Compost?
In its simplest sense compost is the breaking down of organic materials. This can happen in nature such as the breaking down or rotting of leaves, twigs, and dead plants on a forest floor.
Garden compost can either be commercially made or you can do your own composting on your own property.
Compost for gardens are made up of yard trimmings, branches and twigs, wood chips, paper products, and kitchen scraps, and coffee grounds.
Commercial compost is sold in bags, however you can also easily make your own compost with a little time and effort. You can start a compost pile in the corner of your yard, but most people prefer to use a 3-foot by 3-foot container (can build one yourself).
You simply place your yard trimmings, wood chips, kitchen scraps etc. into the container. Using a rake or pitchfork you will need to turn your compost from time to time in order to aerate mixture.
You will also need to keep the materials in the compost box moist to aid in the decomposition of your organic materials. Your compost will be ready to use when it begins to smell like rich topsoil.
You may also want to read this article to find out how long it takes to make compost.
What is Manure?
Most people think of the manure used for fertilizing plants to be animal waste and while livestock waste is part of what makes up manure it isn’t the sum of what makes up this organic fertilizer.
Manure actually consists of livestock feces, urine, bedding for livestock, and spilled feed. While all manure adds nutrients to your soil, not all manure is equal in the quality of the nutrients they provide.
Experts recommend that manure either be commercially treated using heat or through composting before using it on your plants.
The quality of manure will depend on the type of animal, storage and collection method of the manure, its freshness and other variables.
Using untreated or manure that is not composted can contain E coli and other contaminants. That being said, it may be safe to use raw manure if the manure is used at least 120 days before harvesting your crops. However, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Different Types of Manure
Here is a look at some of the different types of manure and its quality:
Rabbit: Rabbit manure has a good balance of nutrients and may be used directly from under the hutch. Just 3 or 4 rabbits may be enough to provide added nutrients to your garden.
Chickens: Manure from chickens is rich in nitrogen and will burn out your plants. In order to use chicken manure you will need to compost it to lower the levels of nitrogen.
You may also want to read this article that answers the question, is chicken manure good for tomatoes?
Horse: Horse manure is low quality and is often loaded with seeds that have not been broken down. Hence, this manure needs to be composted before using in your garden to avoid the growing of weeds.
Cow: Cow manure is also low quality manure, however, you don’t have to worry about seeds not being broken down since a cow has multiple stomachs that result in the breaking down of all its feed.
You may also want to check out this article to get the answer to the question, is cow manure good for tomatoes?
Goats and Sheep: Goats and sheep manure is also lower quality and is best used when composted or treated.
You should never use manure that comes from any animals that eat meat like pigs, dogs and cats.
What is the Difference Between Compost and Manure? (Compost vs Manure)
While both compost and manure are used to add nutrients to your lawn or garden, there are some differences between the two.
Compost is made up of natural organic ingredients and while it may in some circumstances include some animal waste it usually doesn’t. Compost may also contain many more different nutrients (minerals) than manure.
Manure on the other hand is made up of animal waste and normally the only additional organic matter in manure comes from the spilled feed, bedding and the such although it may contain yard clippings and twigs if the manure is composted.
Manure also may contain more microbial matter than compost.
When to Use Compost
Compost is normally used in the spring before planting and as a fertilizer while your plants are growing. Compost is normally spread on the surface of the soil and then worked into the top 4 to 6 inches of soil before you plant your flowers or crops.
During the growing season you can also add a thin layer of compost to add more nutrients to your garden.
Many people also spread a thin layer of compost on their yard in order to have green healthier lawns.
When to Use Manure
While some people use manure the same way compost is used many people actually use manure in the fall once their crops have been harvested. They spread the manure on the top of the soil and then work it 4 to 8 inches into the soil.
Using manure in this way adds nutrients to the depleted soil from the previous growing season. It also improves water filtration, soil texture and aeration.
Is Compost and Manure the Same Thing? Conclusion
The purpose of using either compost or manure is to add nutrients to your soil that have been depleted by the previous plants. These organic materials can improve your soil and help you grow healthier crops and flowers.