Farmers and gardeners have been using manure as fertilizer for many hundreds of years. Manure, combined with other organic material, helps to create a fertile soil and provides important nutrients for plants. If you raise horses or have access to a stable yard, horse manure is the manure of choice for your tomatoes.
Why Horse Manure?
Horse manure is more mild than other manures, provides more nutrients, and is a softer texture, which makes it easier to dig into the soil. In contrast, chicken poop is extremely strong and contains a lot of nitrogen that can easily burn your plants, and cow manure often gets too hard and may require more time to compost.
Fresh or Composted Horse Manure?
Fresh manure should not be used in gardens because it can burn your plants. It is possible to use aged horse manure that has been allowed to dry over the winter, but the preferred method is to compost the horse manure. There are two main reasons for this. First, manure contains high levels of nitrogen. If the manure is not aged properly, incorporated well, and added at the right levels, you can risk damaging your plants. Secondly, horses do not digest their food as well as other animals, so weed seeds can remain in the manure. If you spread the fresh manure onto your garden, you may be spreading all kinds of weeds into your soil.
Composting solves both of these problems. If you have the space and time, combine the horse manure with other organic material like leaves, straw, wood chips, and tree clippings to create a compost pile. As the pile is kept damp and turned regularly, the materials will break down into a great organic mix with balanced levels of nitrogen, carbon, and other essential elements. Hot composting also generates enough heat that it will kill the remaining weed seeds, making it safe to add to your soil.
Growing the Best Tomatoes
While composted horse manure is a great way to start building fertile soil, you should remember a few important tips.
- When you get ready to plant your seedlings, make sure that the horse manure compost is well incorporated into the soil.
- It is important that you never plant tomatoes directly into manure, as manure alone lacks the required minerals for your plants and may cause fertilizer burn.
- For optimal results, incorporate a well-balanced organic tomato fertilizer, like Tomato Secret, into the soil along with your compost. This will ensure that your soil has everything it needs to grow the best plants.