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How long does fresh manure take to decompose in Zone 4/5, if it's not being composted?

 
Posts: 4
Location: USDA Zone 4
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Hello Friends!

I have a couple questions about improving my soil:

1) How long does fresh horse manure take to decompose if I just mix it in to the soil directly? Or cover it with a couple inches of soil on top?

I am in USDA Zone 4 and am working on improving my rock hard clay soil. Unfortunately, I can't do a compost pile to let the manure age but I am wondering if it would be OK to just dump a pile of manure and cover with a couple inches of soil and grass clipping, etc. It'll be Winter in a month or so, nothing will grow anyway and it'll be covered by snow for a couple of month. But would it decompose in those conditions? And will it decompose enough by Spring/early Summer for me to plant some vegetables?

2) If the above is do-able, could I then plant some cover crops on top of the compost/soil that I can then till into the soil next year?
 
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I would say yes to all questions. I would not top it with soil but lightly mix it with the top soil, then cover it either with mulch or green manure and you should be good to go after winter.
 
pollinator
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I'm with Ben. I think it would be fine by spring. Maybe plant some heavier feeders first, like winter or summer squash, tomatoes, brassicas, etc.
 
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With hard clay soil, I wouldn't even bother tilling anything in, just build up.  The worms will do enough mixing for you once the manure softens things up a bit.  My neighbor planted his tomatoes in straight horse manure.  They did great!  As long as it is not piled thick enough to heat to the point where it cooks the plant, you should be fine.  Mix in a bit of sawdust if it seems to be too hot.  Lots of weeds in horse manure, beware.
 
gardener & hugelmaster
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Location: mountains of Tennessee
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You can plant directly into fresh horse manure. There is no need to decompose it first. If you're going to mix it or add soil on top I suggest doing it before winter.
 
gardener
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Horse manure isn't as hot as chicken manure or other animal waste.  It'll have a higher concentration of undigested cellulose in it (compared to, for example, cattle manure) which will make it hold up a bit longer as a mulch or soil amendment.  It'll be fine to plant into by spring -- particularly if you're planting a heavy feeder like a cabbage or tomato.  I wouldn't plant leafy greens in it, but anything else should do fine.
 
Faha Sir
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Location: USDA Zone 4
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Ben Knofe wrote:I would say yes to all questions. I would not top it with soil but lightly mix it with the top soil, then cover it either with mulch or green manure and you should be good to go after winter.



Wouldn't the soil (if I were to top it) act as mulch or mulch like? The reason I was thinking of putting a couple inches of soil on top was to reduce the odors.

Mike Barkley wrote:You can plant directly into fresh horse manure. There is no need to decompose it first. If you're going to mix it or add soil on top I suggest doing it before winter.



Any particular reason to do it before winter?
 
Mike Barkley
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I think mixing the manure in now will give the worms, the mushroom mycelium, & other soil lifeforms time to recover from the disruption & start doing their jobs again. I think that will allow the soil to be more stable & fertile for spring planting. Any future horse manure could be added to the top to not disturb the soil again.
 
Posts: 384
Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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When I open up new garden space in clay I mix in about two inches of horse manure as deep as my spade. When done I start over and dig in the opposite direction with another inch or so. Switching direction from say East/West then North/South helps chop up the clods. I don't remove sod, but try to flip it over so it's on the bottom. Looking at the soil after a year of gardening it's my opinion that the soil still needs more organic matter other than manure. So compost or chopped leaves would help.
I don't like to grow root crops and leafy vegetables in soil recently manured so this (fall) is a good time to get it spread. If you dig the manure in by spring the nitecrawlers will be huge and you won't have to worry about the manure being too fresh. it's said that in the first year you'll only use up about 25-50% of the nutrients in the manure so I don't use any other fertilizers and you won't need more the 2nd year. I never topdress during the growing season.
Enjoy your gardening.
 
Faha Sir
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John Indaburgh wrote: Looking at the soil after a year of gardening it's my opinion that the soil still needs more organic matter other than manure. So compost or chopped leaves would help.



Would coffee grounds be a good addition along with the manure? I am trying to find compost here but most places only do large orders and it's fairly expensive. But I was able to call up our local Starbucks and they said they would hold their coffee grounds.
 
Mike Barkley
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As Dr Redhawk says in his excellent soil series coffee grounds are like candy for the earthworms!
 
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Location: Dry mountains Eastern WA
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Just be aware....if you are feeding hay from a source other than your own farm..that it may contain pre emergents. Better to know BEFORE you put it in the soil.
 
pollinator
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When I lived in N GA, I would cover my whole garden with fresh out of the next door neighbors barn horse manure. It was mixed with shavings.  I'd put that and my fall leaves from the yard on and till it all in.  By spring it was all composted on it's own and ready to plant in.  Beware that red clay will eat all the organic matter you can feed it and come back for more.
 
John Indaburgh
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When I said that; later I thought the soil could still use some organic matter after adding 2 or 3 inches I meant to suggest to add organic matter other than manure the following year.
From my experience you can grow any crop in that much manure. You could grow most crops without adding any the following year. I meant that to improve the soil texture it could use the organic matter. If you grew corn or another crop that uses lots of nutrients you might add an inch each year. If you have deep black loam soil you might only add an inch of manure every 5 years unless you're growing the corn.
My suggestions assume you don't use any other fertilizers other than compost.
 
pollinator
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It's SO DRY in my zone 5 area that it takes a very very long time. Years.
 
Faha Sir
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Location: USDA Zone 4
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Walt Chase wrote:When I lived in N GA, I would cover my whole garden with fresh out of the next door neighbors barn horse manure. It was mixed with shavings.  I'd put that and my fall leaves from the yard on and till it all in.  By spring it was all composted on it's own and ready to plant in.  Beware that red clay will eat all the organic matter you can feed it and come back for more.



I thought tilling is generally looked down upon, as it destroys whatever bacterial/fungi life that's present in the soil?

elle sagenev wrote:It's SO DRY in my zone 5 area that it takes a very very long time. Years.



I am right in between Zone 4/Zone 5, so this is a little concerning to hear. When you say dry, is it the lack of moisture in the air that's the issue?
 
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