In ancient practices, certain Ayurvedic medicines called bhasmas or paks could only be made on the fire of cow dung cakes. During this time, cows were left free to roam in forest meadows where they ate sweet grass, gave nutritious milk and their dung fertilized the forest further. While the same might not hold true today, cow dung – when composted – makes great slow-release manure for your garden and backyard.
Why is Cow Manure Good?
When it comes to manure, horse or sheep manure has higher nutrients than cow manure. And yet gardeners have long sworn by cow manure. The reason is that cow manure basically gives a great bulk of organic matter to the garden in the form of humus. This fibrous organic matter is a great soil conditioner, and can really rally up poor quality soil into producing healthy produce. It enriches clay soils, gives the flora great nutrition, preserves moisture in case of a dry spell and yet also helps in better drainage during a wet season. Plus it is a reservoir of the three essential nutrients that plants need: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium…
Fresh Dung vs. Composted Manure
Fresh cow dung is not manure. If you use it fresh, all you’ll get is a stinky backyard and weeds and pests. Fresh cow dung varies from dark greenish to brown in color; however, composted cow dung is nearly black. The smell varies too: fresh cow dung smells like, well, cow poop, while composted cow dung has a rich, earthy smell reminiscent of minerals and wet earth. While it’s not as nutrient-rich as chemical fertilizer, it makes for a better organic option for fertilizer, and can be used on many plants from flowers to veggies. Fresh cow manure should ideally be rotted or composted for three (tropical climates) to six months (temperate to cold climates). Fresh manure not only has plenty weeds and seeds that can turn your carefully arranged garden into chaos, but also contains dangerous bacteria such as E. coli. Composting destroys any and all dangerous bacteria and toxins and further turns them nutrient rich. Remember that if the manure hasn’t been composted enough, this will harm the plants and cause strange growth patterns.
Cow Manure Application
Each 10 sq. feet of land can use about 4 pounds of cow manure, and the manure should be spread in the top 5-10 inches of the soil so that nutrients can seep to the roots well. For potted plans, a scoopful at the base during planting will work well, but if reapplying, scoop out some of the top soil and then add in the manure, covering it with the top soil again. Spring is a great season to apply cow manure – the new plant growth gets a boost with this manure.
There’s always a slight risk of pest problems when it comes to using cow manure. A great foil for that is to use dried Neem leaves with it. For each 20 pound bag of cow manure, mix in half a pound of dried Neem leaf extract. Neem is excellent manure in itself and acts as a natural pesticide by disrupting and inhibiting the reproductive cycle of many bugs. Neem deters the adult bugs from feeding, mating or laying eggs and basically sterilizes them and blocks their ability to swallow, as well. It complements the slow-release of cow manure and makes for effective additional manure as well as a pest deterrent.
(If you don’t have access to your own cow manure, you can always check with your local garden supply store. However, please make sure to read the ingredients carefully, and make sure it is sustainably sourced.)
We hope your application of cow manure makes your garden bloom with produce and joy. Happy gardening to you.