Manure vs Compost: is manure compost the best natural fertilizer for your soil?

Belen Molina 2021-06-28 8 min

Manure and compost are the best partners for your garden. I am sure that you´ve heard about compost used as a natural fertilizer but what about manure? It may be the thing that will change your life! Manure is basically the waste of animals. You can use fresh manure or manure compost to amend your soil and improve the growth of your plants. Is manure compost better than compost? Continue reading the article to discover the pros and cons of both processes.

Knowing the Basics

Within the world of manure, you will find different advice and recommendations from gardeners or people keen on the soil. However, most of them agree on the following: both fresh manure and compost manure can be used as an organic fertilizer, but the latter has better results and more advantages. The reason for this is that plants need certain types of nutrients to grow: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N-P-K) and fresh manure contains excessive levels of nitrogen which may burn the plants in an instant. Is manure compost capable of improving soil? When doing compost manure, the carbon to nitrogen (C: N) ratio should be 25/30 to 1 to function properly so a good balance is guaranteed for plants and soil.

You may be interested at: The Perfect Compost Ratio: Greens to Brown Balance

Compost Manure Definition

Compost manure results from composting animal manure. Can I compost every animal manure found in my farm? No! Gardeners recommend using only manure of herbivores: cows, sheep, chicken, rabbit, goat, horse. You should never use the manure of dogs, cats or any carnivorous animal. TIP: always use gloves to collect animal waste since it may carry diseases that infect humans. Animal manure is full of good nutrients that will nourish your garden.

Compost Manure Used for…

Improving soil structure! Compost manure can be used for many things:

Compost manure used for… Improving the soil´s structure! Compost manure can be used for the following:

  • Increase soil´s retention of moisture.
  • Essential micronutrients to plants: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
  • Improvement of soil´s drainage
  • Slow nutrients´release and the soil's absorption.
  • Source of organic matter, therefore it upgrades soil structure.
  • Promoting significant growth of soil´s microorganisms.

What about compost usage?

Ok, the truth is that compost and compost manure are used for the same goal: amend soil regarding its moisture and drainage. Compost also Stabilizes PH of the soil, preparing it for further changes. Something that can be added is that apart from all the above benefits, both compost and compost manure are used to reduce the impact of waste in our house/garden and to help the planet by returning manure to nature.

Introduction of compost into soil
Hoffman, from Pexels

Is Manure Compost Easy to Manage?

It depends on what you are used to doing on a daily basis, but for most people manure compost tends to be challenging. There are a few things that will give you confidence to embrace the process feeling secured. Firstly, it is important to know that nitrogen in manure takes time to decompose and be available for plants. Gardeners recommend waiting for a year to witness nitrogen benefits. Secondly, Is manure compost made rapidly? No! Remember to turn the pile of manure compost constantly to accelerate the process. Manure compost needs oxygen, turning methods homogenize the pile and microbes can have more contact with manure. Thirdly, R E M E M B E R using only vegetarian manure and not carnivore manure. Animal manure is excellent for helping bacteria decompose compost ingredients, the pile heats up and the process is faster than compost.

HEEEEEY be aware that fresh manure is not suggested for manure compost since it may contain weed seeds. Weed seeds may result in a weed problem. Besides, fresh manure may contain parasites and transmit them to humans. Is manure compost going to kill you? Relaax, that is impossible.

Types of Manure

  • Cow manure: ideal for projects involving hot composting. Grabbing fresh cow manure isn't an easy task, choose the dry one that is easy to manage.
  • Chicken manure: High nitrogen levels, perfect for plants. The downside: it is very smelly; think about the good results you will obtain while picking it!
  • Horse manure: Low nitrogen levels, better for cold composting
  • Rabbit manure: High nitrogen levels, ideal for hot composting and the best thing: it is odor free!

Proper Application of Compost Manure

Is manure compost application a rapid process? Gardeners recommend testing the soil to see its PH and the amount of soil nutrients before applying compost manure to the soil. But why? Well, manure compost is formed by the waste of different animals. It is almost impossible to figure out the exact amount of nutrients of each animal waste. However, animal manure is high in nitrogen and it may not be what plants need to grow. Analyzing the soil avoids future problems such as nutrient drain, salt damage, high levels of phosphorus or exorbitant growth of vegetation.


It is manure compost that requires specific things. Usually, compost manure is applied on the soil surface topically. It can also be added or injected into the soil. The proper application will be the one that is based on crop and plant needs.

A woman and a man turning compost
Hoffman, from Pexels

We have already discussed compost manure definition and more, let´s now analyze the pros and cons of compost.

Compost Definition

Compost is the transformation of food scraps and aallll home and garden organic residues into natural fertilizer. The difference with compost manure definition relies on the materials used in both processes. In order to succeed at composting, you should reach the greens to brown balance explained in this article.

The organic residues go through a process of decomposition by microbes and certain environment requirements. A good amount of water to provide moisture to the pile is needed, apart from a great entrance of oxygen and the perfect spot in your garden. Compost then can be used to improve the quality of the soil and to promote the growth of plants and flowers.

More Information

Compost needs a C: N balance to function properly. The C: N balance is the so-called “greens to brown balance” This balance is achieved through the correct mixture of the greens and browns found in your garden, backyard or kitchen. Remember that greens are rich in nitrogen (food scraps, grass clippings) while browns are rich in carbon (dry leaves, wood). Compost stabilizes soil PH and provides a high concentration of nutrients for the plants´ growth.

Is Manure Compost Better than Compost?

They are different things, but the advantage of compost is that the pathogen introduction into soil is tremendously lower than manure compost. If you are kind of lost at this moment, revise the compost manure definition to refresh your mind :). Apart from that, the presence of weed seeds in compost is almost impossible. Whereas that is a strong possibility in manure compost. That is because horses do not digest weed seeds, so they completely eliminate it through their waste. An advantage of manure compost is its slow release of nutrients N-P-K to the plants and soil. Shhhhh, manure compost is free!

Application of Compost

Before applying compost to your soil and plants, verify that it has an earthy smell and not a putrid one. Also check its texture! It should be humid, soft and dark brown. If your compost has those characteristics it is time to move on! (finally, hahahah). The ways of applying compost are infinite. However, the most typical is soil amendment. Soil whaaat? It means mixing compost into soil to strengthen soil´s structure and consistency. Gardeners recommend 2 to 3 inches of compost into the top 6-8 inches of soil´s square foot.

Learn here: How to use Compost? A complete guide to take advantage of compost benefits

Compost into soil process
Gretta, from Pexels

Comparison of Manure Compost and Compost Cons: is Manure Compost the Loser in the Competition?

MANURE COMPOST

COMPOST

It may contain parasites that affect humans and plants.

It may smell putrid and release ammonia if the C:N ratio isn´t balanced.

It can introduce harmful bacteria such as E. coli into the soil if compost is not properly done

Arriving to good compost takes time. The process requires detailed attention.

The chemicals from treated animals may stay in manure.

Depending on the compost bin you purchase, it may be expensive.

Fresh manure isn´t easy to manage

It requires planning and monitoring.

It is impossible to know the nutrient content because of the variety of animal waste used for making manure compost.

Finding the perfect location for your compost bin may bring you headaches

Danger of weed seeds introduction into your soil

Arriving to the C:N ratio implies reading a bunch of information

It is heavy and not easy to transport


Now that compost manure and compost have been largely explained, I believe that you have the necessary tools to decide which one to choose. Is manure compost ideal for you? Or is compost?

I advise you to go over the application of both, revise what things you will need to compost and choose the best compost for your soil and plants. Re read the compost manure definition to eliminate your doubts on the topic. If you don't have a farm and you find it difficult getting manure for your compost, then go for compost. The benefits are mostly the same in both and the latter is ideal for people living in houses or apartments since it can be made outdoors or indoors. Now, if you live on a farm or you can buy manure to prepare compost then consider it your best choice.

Wait for the results!

Belen Molina

I am a passionate person about healthy food and the environment. Translator/copywriter.

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