About Gardening: Composting Horse Manure

by Mira Dessy

I've got a question about composting horse manure We just recently were offered free horse "poop" for our garden, which we took advantage of. We laid it on top of our raised beds, and topped that with alfalfa that wasn't high enough quality for their horses to eat. Within one week the manure was lovely "black gold". At the same time, a good friend of mine said to watch out because of e coli. bacteria. She sent me several websites to check out information, but so far all I'm finding is information about COW manure (fresh). Can you help this suburban farmer? I've already been planting in this stuff and everything's coming up really well.
Linda B.
Ventura, CA

Dear Linda,
I had not heard any negative press about E. Coli and horse manure. I think the best thing would be to call the department of Agriculture in your area to see if they have any information about this. Two big cautions about using horse manure though. First, you need to make sure that it is well aged. Usually it is mixed with stable shaving and urine and is very strong and can burn the garden because of all of the ammonia in the urine. Second, in my experience I usually get more weeds out of horse manure than I do out of cow manure unless I really compost it well.

If you have a question for Mira, send it to mdessy@together.net. She's able to answer many of them personally.

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