Add well aged manure to vegetable gardens twice per year in Fall and Spring. Pelleted chicken manure or aged cow manure should be added at the beginning of the two major growing seasons, 2 weeks before planting Summer vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and corn and Winter vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and spinach.
How add manure into your garden in Fall
When to add manure
Add manure to your vegetable garden after you have removed your summer vegetables that have finished fruiting. Tomatoes will dry off by Fall when the weather cools so they can be pulled out, including the roots.
Dig it in with a garden fork
Dig the soil over mixing any left over old straw mulch and add 1 shovel full of aged cow manure per 1 square foot. Add one handful of pelleted chicken manure per 2 square feet and mix it in. This will provide extra nitrogen which will be the perfect start for your winter crops.
Let it rest for 2 weeks
Let the manure sit for at least 2 weeks before planting your winter crops. This will allow it to mix through your soil as you water it. Cover the soil with fresh straw mulch to protect it from being washed away. This will also keep moisture into attract worms.
How add manure into your garden in Spring
When to add
Add manure to your garden in Spring at least 2 weeks before you plant your seedlings. Remove your winter vegetables that have finished growing and remove any weeds that have snuck through your mulch.
Mix the manure
Dig 1 shovel full of aged cow manure per 1 square foot in your garden soil. For an extra nitrogen boost add one handful of pelleted chicken manure per 2 square feet and mix it in. This will provide extra nitrogen which will be the perfect start for your winter crops.
Rest for 2 weeks before planting
Let the manure sit for at least 2 weeks before planting your Spring and Summer crops. This will allow it to mix through your soil as you water it. When the frosts have passed you can plant your new frost sensitive seedlings such as tomatoes and peppers. Wait until late Spring if needed to protect delicate seedlings.
How to add manure to a vegetable garden
Add well aged cow manure, chicken, sheep or alpaca manure to your vegetable garden after it has been broken down in a compost heap for at least 6 months. You can also buy bags of aged cow manure or pelleted chicken manure.
It is important to only add aged manure to your garden otherwise the fresh manure, particularly chicken and sheep can burn the roots of your plants. Manure can be added to compost bins with other ingredients like dry leaves, straw and food scraps.
Breaking down manure will also allow the break down of harmful bacteria before it is added to your garden.
Best manure for vegetable gardens
The best manure for vegetable gardens are aged manures from herbivores including pelleted chicken, aged cow and sheep manure. It is important to make sure that the manure has been aged for at least 6 months or processed and compressed into pellets.
Aged manures will be broken down to keep the organic material and nutrients which will complement the added compost and a topping of straw mulch.
Aged cow manure can be used as a mulch itself but can dry out quickly. Add a thin layer of this manure on top of soil before adding mulch to add extra nitrogen to feed plants.
Manure that should not be added to vegetable gardens
Do not use cat or dog manure on vegetable gardens even after it has broken down. These manures from carnivorous animals, or animals that eat meat can carry pathogens and nasty bacteria.
6 Times not to add manure to vegetable gardens
1. When it is raining
Do not add manure to your vegetable gardens when it is raining. The soil will compact when you dig, the manure will stick to you and your shovel and it will get everywhere. It is important to water manure in after adding it to soil but do not add it to vegetable gardens during rain.
Wait until the rain has stopped and then add your manure.
2. When the manure is fresh
Fresh manure should not be added to vegetable gardens as it may carry pathogens or dangerous bacteria. Fresh manure an also burn plant roots and can damage or kill your plants. This can happen in particular for small, delicate seedlings.
Age fresh manure in compost bins and then dig it through the soil once it has broken down into humus. Alternatively buy bagged aged cow manure or pelleted chicken manure to add to your garden.
3. When your plants are fruiting
Do not add manure to your garden when your plants are in the middle of fruiting. Tomatoes, peppers and strawberries already be drawing the nutrients they need from the soil. The addition of a fruiting, high potassium fertilizer during the time of fruiting can improve your harvest but there is no need for more manure.
4. When the weather is hot
Do not add manure to your soil when the weather is extremely hot. Your soil can dry out quickly as you dig and turn the soil over. Wait until a cooler day or an early morning before adding manure. Hot weather can kill of soil bacteria if it is not protected so it is better off leaving mulch on the soil and adding manure later.
5. When you are raising seeds
When raising seeds in seed trays you can use seed raising mix without adding manure. Seeds themselves will contain the nutrients needed to sprout and grow without needing manure. When the seedling has grown its second set of leaves, plant them out in your vegetable garden with added manure to give them the extra nutrient they need.
Nitrogen will be the main nutrient needed to give seedlings the next boost then need and continue their fast growth. For more on this check out my previous article, why seedlings grow slow.
6.When you have pets near your garden
Adding manure can be tempting in areas where your pets can access. Dogs can be attracted to manure and may dig up and attempt to eat any that they can access. Make sure your vegetable garden has been sectioned off so your dogs cannot get to it, particularly after adding manure.
When to add manure to vegetable gardens | Summary
Adding aged manure is the perfect addition to your vegetable garden in Fall and Spring. Add it 2 weeks before planting out your seedlings to allow it to settle in and start to release its nutrients into the soil for your plants. Avoid very hot weather and rain when adding manure to your vegetable garden.
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.