I saw a bag of cow manure when I visited the local garden center and was curious if I could use it for my potted plants. I had heard both good and bad things about using it.

Cow manure is good for potted plants because it contains balanced nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It also contains micronutrients and beneficial organisms that benefit potted plants. Make sure to use aged cow manure when adding to the potting soil.

It’s important that the cow manure is composted and not fresh. I’ve written details below on how you should use cow manure in your potted plants so keep reading.

Benefits of using composted cow manure

Adds nutrients to the potting soil

Composted cow manure contains rich nutrients that will benefit the potted plant. It has N-P-K values of 3-2-1 which means 3% nitrogen, 2% phosphorus, and 1% potassium. It also has trace amounts of calcium, magnesium, and sodium.

So the composted cow manure acts as a balanced fertilizer providing both macronutrients and micronutrients to the potting soil.

This makes it suitable for use as a fertilizer when you’re preparing the potting soil for plants. And it can also be used once the plants have matured and need a good supply of nutrients.

Adds organic materials to the potting soil

The composted cow manure contains organic materials that will help improve the texture of the potting soil.

It will help the potting soil retain moisture but drain out any excess. It will also improve the aeration of the potting soil so the roots can get the required oxygen.

The organic material will slowly break down and add nutrients to the potting soil that will be absorbed by the roots.

Adds beneficial organisms to the potting soil

The composted cow manure contains beneficial organisms that have been feeding on the material. They break down the material into nutrients that the roots of the potted plant can absorb.

The beneficial organisms will also improve the texture of the potting soil by moving through it. This helps improve drainage as well as aeration of the potting soil.

Inexpensive fertilizer

Many of your potted plants will require fertilizer to help with their growth. You may need to mix in a slow-release fertilizer when preparing the potting soil. And keep adding fertilizer every couple of months as the plant matures.

You may find that the fertilizer tends to be expensive and adds to your expenses. But composted cow manure is relatively inexpensive to such fertilizer. You may even be able to get some for free or low cost if there’s a farm near you that rears cows.

Drawbacks of using fresh cow manure

Contains pathogens that harm plants

The main issue with fresh cow manure is it can contain pathogens that will affect your plants and even kill them.

The best way to get rid of these pathogens is to compost the manure so that the heat during composting will kill them.

Contains weed seeds

Cows eat weed seeds when grazing in open pastures. Some farmers deliberately feed seeds to cows as part of their nutrition.

Some of these seeds will drop out along with the fresh cow manure. If you use this manure for your potted plants, there’s a chance these seeds will germinate.

The weed seedlings will compete with your potted plant for nutrients and resources. And you will need to keep pulling them out as they grow from the potting soil.

Contains harmful chemicals

The fresh cow manure will contain ammonia that can harm your plants. Composting the manure will get rid of most of this gas.

The fresh cow manure can also contain hormones and chemicals that may have been injected into cows. The composted manure will reduce the number of chemicals present, but they will still be there.

Has a bad smell

The fresh cow manure will have a bad smell that you don’t want in the potted plants near or inside your house.

The composted cow manure will have a clean, earthy smell that is not as pungent as the fresh manure.

Attracts pests to the plants

The fresh cow manure will attract pests such as flies and gnats. These pests will reach your potted plants if you use the fresh cow manure in the potting soil.

The composted cow manure is clean and does not have a bad smell. It will not attract such pests to your potted plants.

What is some good cow manure for potted plants?

The best place you can find composted cow manure is on a farm nearby. You’ll get it for a cheap price and good quality.

The next best option is to visit a garden center or a store like Home Depot or Walmart and check if they can get some.

If you are interested in buying some online then here are some good options.

How to use composted cow manure for potted plants

  • The best time to add the composted cow manure is when you’re preparing the potting soil at the start of the growing season. Make sure to check which plants need fertilizer and which ones do not before adding the manure.
  • The easiest thing to do is mix 50% composted cow manure with 50% potting soil. This will give a good balance of fertilizer with neutral potting soil. Make sure to pick potting soil that does not already contain fertilizer.
  • Mix the composted cow manure well with the potting soil and then put it in the container. Keep an inch of space from the top of the container. This will help prevent spilling water out when you water the potting soil.
  • Dig a hole in the center of the potting soil mixture and place the root ball of the plant inside it. Cover it well with the potting soil mixture so the roots are covered.
  • Now give the potting soil mixture good watering. Use a watering can and pour water till the excess drains out from the drainage holes at the bottom.
  • You can add an inch of the potting soil and composted manure mixture every couple of months to give a good supply of nutrients to your plants.

How to compost cow manure?

  • The easiest way to compost cow manure is to spread it out on the ground and add some straw or hay on top of it.
  • The cow manure provides the green component of the compost that contains nitrogen. The straw or hay provides the brown component of the compost that contains carbon.
  • You need to let this cow manure compost for at least 1 year before it will be ready as fully composted. It’s good to keep mixing it with a rake every couple of weeks. This will help aerate the manure mixture and compost faster.
  • You should also spray some water if you find that the mixture is getting too dry. The composting process needs air and moisture to work well. Make sure not to wet the mixture too much that it becomes soggy. You just want to make it moist.
  • After a year, the cow manure should have turned to composted manure. It should be dark brown and a little moist. And it should have an earthy smell of compost rather than a bad smell.

What are some alternatives to using cow manure?

organic fertilizer
Organic fertilizer I use for my plants

I would recommend using a slow-release organic fertilizer when preparing the potting soil. You can get such a fertilizer at a garden center, nursery, or an online store. Pick a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen as this will help the potted plant develop foliage fast.

Once the plant has grown in the pot and a couple of months have passed, you can add a slow-release fertilizer suitable for the plant.

If you’re growing the plant for foliage, continue to use a fertilizer rich in nitrogen. But if you’re growing a plant for flowers and fruits, pick a fertilizer rich in potassium and phosphorus but lower in nitrogen. This is to limit foliage growth and encourage flowers and fruits.

You can also pick a liquid organic fertilizer instead of a slow-release fertilizer. You dilute this liquid fertilizer with water and spray it on the plant and soil.

The liquid fertilizer starts acting in a couple of days rather than weeks that a slow-release fertilizer would take.

Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the quantity of the fertilizer and how often to use it for your plants.

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