Composted cow manure is good for vegetable gardens because it adds nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to your garden. Composting cow manure breaks down the ammonia and weed seeds making an great soil conditioner for growing vegetables.
There are some key things to know when to using cow manure for your vegetables including how much to add, when to add it and what vegetables like it most.
Benefits of composted cow manure
Composted cow manure is good for vegetable gardens because it adds nutrients to the soil such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Cow manure is lower in nitrogen than some other manures which makes it a gentle soil conditioner and great for your vegetable garden. When you mix it through your soil with some compost, it makes the perfect place to plant vegetables.
Composted cow manure also improves the water holding capacity of your soil. This means you will have to water your vegetables less often. The added organic matter that makes up the cow manure will feed soil microbes which process the minerals and make them available for the plants. The soil microbes also capture carbon in the soil.
Why cow manure should be composted
You should only add composted cow manure to your vegetable garden because fresh cow manure can contain high amounts of ammonia, pathogens and weed seeds. The process of composting the cow manure will allow time for these to break down so they won’t harm your vegetables.
You can buy composted cow manure in bags from your local hardware store or garden center. I bought 2 bags and put them in my vegetable garden and under my citrus trees when I first moved into our house. Composted cow manure is a gentle fertilizer and adds structure to your soil.
You can also get composted cow manure from your local landscape supplier in trailer loads. Just make sure it is well aged. If the cow manure looks too fresh, leave it to break down in a pile until it looks like rich dark soil before adding it to your vegetable garden.
How much composted cow manure to add to a vegetable garden
I have added 1 bag of composted cow manure to an area of around 10 square feet of my vegetable garden. Each bag of composted cow manure is 25 Liters or 6.5 Gallons. Because cow manure is a mild fertilizer and soil conditioner there won’t be a problem if you add more or less to your vegetable garden.
How long cow manure takes to compost
Cow manure will take around 6 months to break down in a normal cold compost in your backyard. When it is ready to use on your vegetable garden it will look like rich, dark soil. To compost the cow manure, mix it through your compost with straw, hay or leaf mulch. You will need at least twice as much hay or straw to cow manure to make a good mix. If the mix is too wet, add more hay or straw and this will absorb the water.
Use the composted cow manure on your vegetable garden when it looks like soil. I like to dig the composted cow manure into the garden but you can also layer it on top as a top dressing. If you buy it in bags, look for those labelled as ‘aged cow manure’, this will be ready to add straight to your vegetable garden.
Vegetables that don’t like composted cow manure
All vegetables like composted cow manure and there are none that don’t. You can dig it through the soil where you will grow vegetables like lettuce, spinach, cabbage and broccoli. You can also dig it into the soil where you will grow strawberries, tomatoes, peppers and corn.
When to add composted cow manure to a vegetable garden
The best time to add composted cow manure to your vegetable garden is 4 weeks before planting. Once you have cleared last seasons vegetables in spring or fall, dig in some composted cow manure.
Let the soil rest and allow the microbes to break the cow manure down into the soil. Cover the soil with mulch and it will be ready to plant with new vegetables in 4 weeks.
You do not need to wait for 4 weeks if you are in a hurry to plant your vegetables. This time allows soil microbes to start to integrate the composted cow manure into the soil and release some nutrients so they are available for your vegetables to absorb.
How to put composted cow manure in the vegetable garden
The best way to add composted cow manure to your vegetable garden is to spread it thinly over the top of the bare soil. Make sure you rake back or remove any mulch first. Then you can gently dig the composted cow manure into the soil with a fork or spade.
Another option for adding composted cow manure to your vegetable garden is to sprinkle it around growing seedlings. Once you have planted vegetable seedlings like broccoli, cabbage or kale, you can spread it over their root zone straight after planting. You then won’t need to apply the cow manure again as they grow. Top it off with some mulch and you will have happy vegetable plants.
Is composted cow manure good for tomatoes?
Composted cow manure is great for tomatoes, just dig it into the soil 4 weeks before planting out your tomato seedlings. This will help to keep moisture in the soil, add organic matter to the soil so that tomato roots can grow and spread and absorb nutrients over a wide area. This will give you healthy tomato plants and lots of tomatoes.
Does composted cow manure contain microorganisms?
The composted cow manure contains microorganisms. Some microorganisms initially come from the cow’s digestive system to help them to break down their food, the rest will come and grow as the manure is broken down.
If the cows were grass fed the manure may also contain weed seeds which is another reason why it is important to compost the cow manure. The weed seeds could sprout if added to your garden too soon.
Cow manure is a great fertilizer and soil conditioner for your vegetables, make sure it is composted and it will be a great addition to your garden supporting healthy plant growth.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.