Garden Amendments: Composted Cow Manure and The Commando Garden

Embracing Our Interdependence With Nature

Garden Amendments: Composted Cow Manure and The Commando Garden

Composted Cow Manure is an excellent garden amendment. In the garden we focus on the soil a great deal. We work to make great compost, and if it goes in your garden the way it goes in mine you will run out of your home made compost before your compost needs are met. Composted Cow Manure in the bag from the store is a reasonable stand in for home made compost. It usually comes in 40lb bags, and the best price I have found so far is just under $1.70 for a bag. Composted cow manure can take the place of your compost as the top layer of the No Dig Garden Box or Mound.

In a pinch a bag of composted cow manure will make an excellent commando garden too. For instance, say growing season has come, and you haven’t built or planned your permanent garden. Go to the store and get several bags of composted cow manure. Find a sunny place near the the kitchen and proximate to a water source. Lay a bag down on its flat side on the ground. Poke some holes in the bag on the upturned side. Flip that side with the holes over onto the ground, cut a slit long ways down the middle of the now upsided bag surface and plant your seeds or transplants right into it. You will be able to grow there for a season. Just plant your transplants or seeds, water and watch them grow. You won’t need to feed plants growing in composted cow manure either, it is rich enough as it is for a whole season of growing.

My lady friend Celeste did her entire garden bed this way for the first season in her new house. She placed dozens of bags of composted cow manure a few rows wide and several rows long and opened the bags to grow into. She had a great harvest, and in the summer while there visiting I helped her to pull the plastic bags away from beneath the soil, and was thrilled to see many large earthworms blessing her garden. I don’t know if they came from the ground beneath the garden, or from the bags of composted cow manure, how ever they came to be there earthworms are a wonderful sign in the garden.

Tired of bending down to your garden? Put the bag of composted cow manure on a raised surface. If you don’t have a table to spare, wire spools work great, or lay decking boards (2×6 or 2×8) across saw horses and lay the bags up there.

Composted cow manure is no longer manure. It was once, and has composted down so that it is just rich black soil. Composted cow manure is not top soil. Top soil is not the same as composted cow manure, and will not perform even half as well in your garden. I don’t recommend top soil for growing vegetables. Potting soil is for growing plants in pots. Don’t put potting soil on your vegetable garden. If you would like to lighten up the composted cow manure you can use two shovels full of coconut coir per 16 square feet. Don’t forget that if you are planning an organic garden the soil amendments count. Composted cow manure is usually marked organic, and it is, in my opinion, ideal.

Is composted cow manure the perfect compost solution for us year after year? No. Remember, if you would like to reduce your carbon foot print buying bags of composted cow manure is not the way. A great deal of petroleum product was used to make the plastic bags the compost comes in, and there is the cost of shipping it to your store and the cost of the trip you made to get it from the store to your home. It is great in a pinch, but each summer I work to produce enough of my own compost to fulfill the needs of my garden for the next growing season. I hope you will too.

In my next article I will write about how to make your own composted manure for your garden. Stay tuned.

Now get out there and grow something good.


18 Responses

  1. Sara says:

    Very interesting point about cow manure and petroleum products….could you explain for a novice what a commando garden is?


  2. Adina says:

    Thanks for your comment Sara. A commando garden is the garden you plant and grow right into the bag of composted cow manure on the ground or on a raised surface.

  3. Dorothy Weinstein says:

    Interesting about cow manure and commando gardens. Learn something every day! Thanks, Adina!

  4. Adina says:

    Thanks for your comment Dorothy.

  5. Very interesting and useful info. What is a commando garden? Can you do a post on one with some pictures?

  6. Adina says:

    Thanks for your comment Danny. It is obvious that my article does not make it clear what the commando garden is. The commando garden is the garden you plant and grow right into the bag of composted cow manure on the ground or on a raised surface.

  7. Chuck Southerland says:

    I just toojk down a 120yr old barn for its timbers and descovered 800 yrds. of cow compost. I am not a farmer but i have many people inquiring about the product. How much shoul I sell it for by the yrd?

  8. Adina says:

    Hi Chuck, It sounds like you hit gold twice. If you are in a purely rural area, the manure may not be worth much, because your neighbors may be giving it away. However if you have a resource for advertising the cow compost to urban or suburban dwellers, and you are willing to deliver, I think you can get whatever people are willing to pay. Bagged and labeled for sale at a green market you could get from $4 to $16 for a cubic foot and a half. I have no idea what to tell you about the yard price except that I have noticed that anything by the truck load is much more costly if delivered. Given that it is the by product from your timber project you have the opportunity to make some quick cash and make some people and some gardens very happy. It sounds like a win/win proposition.

  9. Chuck Southerland says:

    Thank you for your comment, I had a neighbor aproach me and is willing to buy the whole lot of it. Do you think $1000 is reasonable or is ther an organization or company that i could get an accurate price per yard. delivered. I would like to put an add in the suburban papers. I have a 6yrd dump trailer.

  10. Adina says:

    Chuck, Your neighbor’s offer seems reasonable, and it is a pretty trouble free opportunity to be done with the whole thing for you. I guess I am wondering if your neighbor is going to use and or share it all or resell it.
    You might try going on to Craig’s List in your county or area to get an accurate idea of what local people are paying for manure by the truck load.

  11. Kim says:

    I thought I would just add a comment about cow manure. Stockyards and feedlots both have a large amount of cow manure that is just waiting for someone to compost (sometimes it has even been stacked for such a long time that it has turned into the ideal black soil). Often times, the feedlot or stockyard owners do not even charge for someone to come pick up a truck full. I just recently put in a new garden bed, and did not want to spend a small fortune on soil; the stockyards was willing to load my truck twice with cow manure, and even invited me to come back.

  12. Adina says:

    Thanks for your comment Kim. Cow manure is awesome. I prefer mine off of pasture though. I wouldn’t refuse feed lot manure, but I would compost it for a very long time. When cattle are confined off of pasture and fed grains like corn they tend to get ill as their rumens are not designed for primarily grain diets, and especially high sugar corn. If they are not dosed with antibiotics then the E. coli flourish and you wind up with either lots of antibiotics or lots of E. coli in your manure. Both of which over time the myriad compost organisms working on the manure will eventually destroy. This is why I would compost feed lot manure for a very long time.
    I would not be as worried about dairy cow manure off of the milking lot if the cows are otherwise on pasture.

  13. Ckim says:

    Thanks for this article, but you should state more information about the value of cow manure compost(we know that the value is related to the raw material be producing compost). I hope this information is very usefull for our scientists in agriculture and natural resurce development.

  14. Adina says:

    Thanks for your comment Ckim.

  15. Rosario says:

    Old fashioned dignigg is the best way, and you have a small patch so it won’t take you more than a couple of hours and is good exercise.Spread your compost and sand over the area to be dug. Dig out a trench 6 9 inches deep with a shovel and put the dirt to the side. (Actually it is a lot easier to dig clay with a garden fork, if you can find one. It breaks up the soil more easily and is less work). Dig a second trench next to the first and dump the soil in the first trench as you go along. This brings the soil from the bottom to the top and buries the weed seeds that are in the top inch or two. Keep going till you have done the whole area. Rake the whole area and break up any big lumps. Leave it for a couple of days to settle before you plant. Better wait for a rainstorm.

  16. Adina says:

    Hi Rosario, Welcome to the no dig no till world. Digging is not better for soil or plants. Please read why the No Till No Dig Way works. Thanks for your comment.

  17. Donavin says:

    Hi Adina,

    I got to agree with you on the double dig version of vegetable gardening – weeks of digging, mixing in compost/manure only to have no veggies survive. A lot of hard work with no reward.

    I was introduced to no-till/raised bed gardening by my local nursery – used composted horse to now with fantastic results. Trialing well composted cow now to see if I can get the same/better yields.

    I also see a lot of discussions where it is said that it’s not possible to use only composted manure to grow, that soil is a must have. If I hadn’t seen the results first hand on manure only, I’d still be breaking my back double digging.

    Thank you for the article confirming I’m not delusional.

  18. Adina says:

    Thank you for you comment Donavin. It is amazing that we had somehow been led so astray, when doing less is better for soil and plants. Thanks to no till methods my oldest garden has some amazing black sticky soil that goes deeper every season, and it is full of earthworms.

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