Manure Vs. Compost:Which One is the Best for your Garden?

When it comes to enriching soil and promoting healthy plant growth, organic fertilizers play a vital role.

Among the various options available, manure and compost have emerged as popular choices for gardeners, farmers, and environmentally conscious individuals.

Both manure and compost offer a natural alternative to synthetic fertilizers, providing essential nutrients to the soil while improving its structure and fertility.

However, despite their shared purpose, manure and compost differ in composition, production methods, and benefits.

In this article, we delve into the world of organic fertilizers, exploring the characteristics of manure and compost, their distinct advantages, and how they can be used effectively to nurture plants and promote sustainable agriculture.

By understanding the unique qualities of manure and compost, gardeners and farmers can make informed choices and harness the power of organic fertilizers to cultivate thriving, vibrant ecosystems.


Manure is a valuable organic material that plays a crucial role in agriculture and gardening.\

It refers to the decomposed remains of animal waste, often mixed with other organic matter such as straw, bedding, or plant residues.

As animals consume plant material, their digestive systems break down the nutrients and produce waste that retains essential elements for plant growth.

Manure serves as a natural fertilizer, enriching the soil with nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are essential for plant growth and development.

It also improves soil structure, water retention, and microbial activity, enhancing overall soil health.

The use of manure in farming practices dates back centuries, with its effectiveness proven through generations of agricultural practices.

Various types of manure are available, depending on the animal source, including cow, horse, poultry, and pig manure, each having unique nutrient compositions.

However, it is important to properly compost or age manure before use to reduce the risk of pathogenic organisms and maximize its nutrient availability.

Overall, manure serves as a sustainable and natural resource that promotes healthy plant growth while minimizing the use of synthetic fertilizers and supporting ecological balance in agriculture.


Advantages of Manure

  • It is free, but sometimes you may be required to pay for transport and labor.
  • It improves the soil’s structure and water retention ability, but this depends on the hums matter in it.
  • Manure boosts the drainage level of the soil by holding more moisture than ordinary soil.
  • It increases the organic components of the soil.
  • Improves water filtration level in the soil.
  • Manure boosts drainage of the soil.
  • It enhances aeration and soil texture.
  • Manure supplies your plants micro-nutrients and nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Disadvantages of manure

  • Manure can be challenging to transport and apply because of its bulkiness.
  • Fresh manure releases ammonia compounds which can burn the plants or seedlings.
  • The nutrient level is not constant and depends on the plant waste or animal manure used in its preparation.
  • You require a variety of livestock and poultry to get a good amount of manure to use in your garden.
  • If not sufficiently cured, it can introduce human pathogenic bacteria into the soil, potentially dangerous to human health. In most cases, these bacteria are found in animal waste from animals that feed on meat products. Avoid such manures; instead, use the waste from plant-eating animals.
  • In some cases, it can introduce weeds into your garden, especially if you used ruminant animal waste to make the manure.
  • Manure has a foul smell since it’s made from animal feces.
  • It leaches through the soil quickly, meaning that you will have to top it up from time to time(Source).
  • Some manure may have traces of antibiotics and pesticides which in turn affect the growth of the crops.’

Tips for maintaining manure

  • Avoid using waste from sick animals since it can ruin the manure and spread diseases to other animals and plants.
  • Cover or fence the manure decomposition area to ensure the livestock does not tamper with the feces and spread them all over the yard.
  • Use the manure at the bottom of the pile first to give the top layer to decompose completely.

How to apply manure

Manure is mainly applied on top of the soil surface. It is advisable to mix it with the top soil to avoid  fast leaching. Alternatively, it can be injected into the soil.

The amount to be applied will depend on composition of the manure and the soil needs.


Compost is an organic waste of decomposition process. It commonly takes place through the breakdown of dead leaves, food waste, and grasses.

Compost releases nutrients slowly and can take even months before its complete depletion.

Advantages of Compost

  • It can be a source of income to farmers with the required equipment.
  • Compost improves the overall soil health, which improves plant health in the long run.
  • It reduces soil erosion.
  • Compost improves nutrient uptake of plants from the soil.
  • It stabilizes soil pH by neutralizing soil, thus soil maintaining the soil PH.
  • Compost contains beneficial microbes that help protect diseases and increases nutrient cycling.
  • The possibility of weed seed introduction is low thanks to the high heat produced during decomposition.
  • Improve water retention capacity reducing irrigation frequency.
  • Reduces soil compactness and binds soil properties.
  • Increases water and air permeability in the soil.
  • Compost contains a high amount of nutrients due to its lower water content when compared to manure.
  • It provides organic matter by releasing nutrients slowly to the soil.

Disadvantages of compost

  • Producing compost is expensive, and it requires special equipment and a lot of planning and monitoring.
  • It is more expensive per lb. of the available nutrient as compared to manure.
  • If you are producing large compost quantities for commercial purposes, you will need a permit from the relevant authority.

How to apply compost

Applying compost to your garden or plants is a fantastic way to enrich the soil and provide essential nutrients for healthy plant growth. Here are some steps to help you effectively apply compost:

  1. Determine the right time: Compost can be applied at any time of the year, but it is generally best to do so in the spring or fall. This allows the compost to break down further and integrate with the soil before the active growing season.
  2. Prepare the soil: Before applying compost, prepare the soil by removing any weeds, rocks, or debris. Loosen the soil with a garden fork or tiller to create a receptive environment for the compost.
  3. Determine the quantity: Assess the needs of your plants and soil to determine the appropriate amount of compost required. As a general guideline, apply a layer of compost about 2-3 inches thick.
  4. Spread the compost: Spread the compost evenly over the soil surface, covering the entire planting area. You can use a shovel, rake, or gloved hands to distribute the compost.
  5. Incorporate the compost: Once the compost is spread, gently incorporate it into the soil using a garden fork, hoe, or tiller. Mix the compost thoroughly with the top few inches of soil, ensuring that it is well blended.
  6. Water the area: After applying and incorporating the compost, water the area thoroughly. This helps to settle the compost into the soil and initiate the process of nutrient release.
  7. Mulch the area: To further retain moisture and enhance the benefits of the compost, consider adding a layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or straw, on top of the soil.
  8. Repeat as necessary: Compost application is not a one-time process. It’s beneficial to reapply compost annually or as needed to maintain soil fertility and support plant growth.

Remember, composting is a continuous cycle, so be sure to keep composting kitchen scraps, yard waste, and other organic materials to generate a fresh supply of compost for future applications.

With regular application and maintenance, compost will contribute to a thriving, nutrient-rich soil ecosystem that promotes the health and vitality of your plants.

Tips On Maintaining Compost

  • Do not use green waste; instead, mix it with brown waste since grass, leaves, and plant remains release nitrogen into the compost pile. Mixing it with brown debris ensures that nitrogen does not dominate the pile.
  • Inform everyone of what should not be thrown in the compost bin.
  • Ensure your bin has enough oxygen and moisture, among other valuable ingredients, to allow decomposition

Difference in Manure vs. Compost

Manure and compost are both organic materials used to improve soil fertility and provide nutrients to plants. However, there are some key differences between them:

  1. Source: Manure is primarily animal waste, such as cow, horse, or chicken manure. It contains a mixture of animal excrement and bedding materials like straw or wood shavings.

On the other hand, compost is made from a combination of organic materials, including yard waste, vegetable scraps, leaves, and other plant matter.

  1. Nutrient Content: Manure is typically higher in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK), which are essential macronutrients for plant growth.

The nutrient levels in manure can vary depending on the animal species, diet, and management practices. Compost, while also containing some nutrients, generally has lower NPK levels compared to manure.

However, compost offers a more balanced and diverse range of nutrients, along with other beneficial organic matter.

  1. Aging and Decomposition: Manure is usually considered “fresh” and may contain pathogens and weed seeds that can be harmful to plants if not properly managed.

It needs to undergo a process called aging or curing, where it is allowed to decompose and stabilize over time before being used as a soil amendment.

Compost, on the other hand, is the result of a controlled decomposition process known as composting.

It involves the breakdown of organic materials through microbial activity, resulting in a stable and nutrient-rich end product.

  1. Odor and Appearance: Fresh manure often has a strong, distinctive odor due to the presence of animal waste.

As it ages and decomposes, the smell tends to dissipate. Compost, when properly produced, has a earthy smell similar to that of rich soil.

In terms of appearance, manure generally has a more fibrous texture and may contain visible pieces of bedding material, while compost has a crumbly texture and is visually uniform.

  1. Application: Manure is commonly used as a soil amendment and fertilizer. It can be applied directly to the soil or mixed with other materials, such as straw or wood chips, to improve its handling and nutrient content.

Compost is also used as a soil amendment and can be applied directly to gardens, lawns, or potted plants. It helps improve soil structure, moisture retention, and microbial activity, enhancing overall soil health.

It’s worth noting that both manure and compost have their advantages and considerations when used in gardening or agriculture.

The choice between them often depends on factors such as nutrient requirements, soil conditions, availability, and personal preferences.

Similarities between Manure and Compost

Manure and compost share several similarities as organic materials used for soil improvement and plant nutrition. Here are some key similarities between manure and compost:

  1. Organic Matter: Both manure and compost are rich in organic matter.

They are derived from decomposed plant and animal materials, which contain essential nutrients and organic compounds beneficial for soil health.

  1. Nutrient Content: Manure and compost provide valuable nutrients for plants.

They contain macro and micronutrients such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and trace elements that support plant growth and development.

  1. Soil Structure Enhancement: Both manure and compost can improve soil structure and texture.

Their organic matter content helps to increase soil porosity, water retention capacity, and drainage. This improves soil aeration and root penetration, leading to healthier plant growth.

  1. Microbial Activity: Manure and compost are teeming with beneficial microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and earthworms.

These microorganisms contribute to the breakdown of organic matter, nutrient cycling, and the suppression of plant diseases, promoting a thriving soil ecosystem.

  1. pH Regulation: Manure and compost can help balance soil pH.

They often have a neutral to slightly alkaline pH, which can help neutralize acidic soils or reduce alkalinity in some cases, creating a more favorable pH range for plant growth.

  1. Environmental Sustainability: Both manure and compost offer eco-friendly solutions for recycling organic waste.

They reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers and contribute to waste management by utilizing organic materials that would otherwise end up in landfills.

  1. Slow Release of Nutrients: Manure and compost release nutrients slowly over time, ensuring a more consistent and sustained nutrient supply to plants.

This reduces the risk of nutrient leaching and helps prevent nutrient imbalances or excessive nutrient runoff.

While manure and compost have these similarities, it’s important to note that there are some differences between them as well.

Manure refers specifically to animal waste, while compost can be made from a broader range of organic materials, including plant residues, yard waste, and food scraps.

Additionally, the nutrient content and characteristics of manure and compost can vary depending on the source and the composting process used.

Conclusion on Manure Vs. Compost

Manure vs. compost! Both manure and compost are beneficial to plants.

However, it is up to you to choose which one is best for your garden.

You can use any of them depending on how easy you can get it.

If you have plenty of livestock, manure will be the best for you since animal waste is readily available.

In case you don’t own poultry or livestock, making a compost pit will be the best option.

Even with animals in your homestead, you can still make compost for your garden.

In case you don’t have plants or a garden to use the manure or compost on, you can sell it to those in need.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.