Jul 26, 2011

Watch Where You Get Your Compost

I recently had someone tell me she bought horse manure for her garden - and that the stuff destroyed her crop. The manure was aged - it wasn't so "hot" it killed her garden; there was something else in the manure that made her plants wither up and die. She suspects the manure was contaminated with strong weed killers.

This was a new concept to me; then I read this, from Mother Earth News:

"The EPA allows Dow and others to sell these potent weed killers to farmers, who spray them on their pastures and hayfields. When animals graze on the treated pasture or hay, the chemicals pass through the animals and persist in the manure for several years — even if the manure is processed into compost. Gardeners then use the contaminated hay or compost on their crops, bringing a slow death to carrots, lettuces, potatoes, beets, spinach, tomatoes and legumes, including (but not limited to) beans and peas. This is not a minor or isolated problem...

Sensitive plants may show symptoms quickly in heavily contaminated soil, or damage may not be apparent for weeks. As the leaves of affected plants curl and shrivel, gardeners often wrongly assume their plants have been hit by a disease or aerial herbicide drift."

According to Mother Earth News, the chemicals can remain in the soil for years.

Read the rest here.


  1. Yet another reason to make your own compost! I'm new to your blog, but to anyone that has any critters about (we have chickens and pigs) using "fresh" manure is a rookie mistake. We did it too. But when you leave it to winter over then use in the spring, it is good stuff!

  2. Exactly right, Mrs. Farmer. Unaged manure is "hot" and burns plants right up! An exception is rabbit manure, which doesn't need aging. Another consideration, however, is when you apply. It's not a good idea to apply anything but VERY aged manure (at least a year old) to growing plants because it could spread disease to your food. Instead, apply or dig it in in the fall, for spring's garden.