Filling our raised bed gardens with horse manure

Last Saturday we finally located a wonderful source of material to fill our raised beds with. My aunt and uncle sent me to a nice man who has been composting his horse manure for over twenty years! We hooked on to the trailer and drove the 10 miles out to his farm to load up.

We truly couldn’t have found a better bargain, for a heaping bobcat bucket load he only charges $5.00. We asked for three buckets, which filled our trailer quite well. With a bit of pride in his voice, he let us know that the pile he was scooping our old composted manure from was eighteen years old! The horse manure has turned into something akin to the “black gold” you might hear about now and then. It is a deep rich brown soil that has a pleasant earthy smell, it is light and fluffy, yet has substance. I think our plants are going to thrive in this amazing stuff!

Now I’m not so sure that we needed to go out and buy these bags of peat moss, pro-mix, and cow manure a few weeks ago, but guess it won’t hurt. For the original square foot gardening method you are supposed to use something called “Mel’s Mix”.

This “MM” should consist of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost (which should be 5 different kinds of manure). I couldn’t locate any vermiculite and really did not want to wait to have it shipped, shipping it is expensive anyway so I decided to compromise and use a big block of Pro-mix for each bed. The pro-mix does have vermiculite, and pearlite, in it so it at least I will get some of the water holding benefits the vermiculite offers. I think the mix we’ve created will be a decent substitute for “MM”. Only time will tell if  we’re right or not!

peat moss promix and cow manure


Pie was quite the helper, we trucked about 10 – 12 wheelbarrows of composted manure into our beds. It took us most of the day and we had definitely worked up a sweat by the time we were done! While I joked to my friends that we spent the whole day “shoveling sh*t”, it was fun and a good way to spend time together outside.We used just about all of that manure!

We nailed sturdy upholstery tacks, that I found at a yard sale for ten cents a pack, at one foot intervals around the sides of the bed. Then we used garden string to create our grid pattern. It looks nice! Just for fun we also tried out a Burpee soil test kit to see how our soil stacks up. Everything looks good and I think they’re ready for plants!

raised bed garden manure

After filling the two 4’x8′ beds, six big pots for pansies, the tire planters, several longer planters and misc. small pots, we had still manure leftover!

Super G. quickly framed another bed over by the chicken coop, and dumped the rest of the manure inside so he could have his job trailer back. Thanks Honey! I am revamping my square foot garden plan a bit and moving the summer squash and cucumbers to this new coop bed, that will free up four extra squares in the 4’x8′ beds for a few more strawberry and lettuce plants.

chicken dust bath

My flock of renegade chickens will be mighty mad next week when I put fencing around the coop raised bed. They have been relishing in the cool soil and taking daily {all day} dust baths in it since it’s discovery. I let them…. for now. Super G. also brought home a nice big piece of vinyl lattice leftover from a wind damage job he’s working on. I am going to attach it to the side of the coop wall, behind the raised bed, for my cucumber vines to grow up! Perfect!

Plants should be coming this weekend! There is a big plant sale at our local Tractor Supply store that has proceeds going towards helping the community. I plan on being there bright and early to snag some healthy veggie plants!

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About the Author

Henrietta Newman is a self-loving empty-nester into smudging, nature, yoga, fitness, healthy living, hunting, camping, hiking, tech, video games, gadgets, recipes, reviews and more.
With a love for the outdoors and visiting local attractions in and around NW PA and Lake Erie, you never know what you'll find in my nest! Subscribe to A Hen's Nest so you don't miss the fun!



  1. 1
    buy gold says

    Mix the manure and the peat moss one part peat moss to two parts manure in a wheel barrow and spread evenly over the top layer of your planting areas.

  2. 2
    lisa brown says

    Such a cute picture with your chickens enjoying the beds. :)

  3. 3

    how did your garden turn out? i just recently purchased a truck load of composted horse manure and filled my raised bed with it. I don’t plan on adding anything extra to it just the manure and I’m worried that my plants will not grow….I will be planting next week so I guess I will see. Any advice would be great.

    • 4

      It turned out really well! This will be our third year using the raised beds and i plan to get a new scoop of manure to top off the beds since they have settled over the past 2 seasons. I mixed our aged horse manure with the pro-mix and peat moss but I’m not so sure that it was needed, I think they would have been fine without the added extras! Or, since my beds are smaller, I was thinking about buying a big bag or two or miracle grow soil and topping them off with that to add some nutrients to the mix. I hope you have success with your garden!

  4. 5

    Have you ever thought about using your chicken manure for the gardens. I seem to have a lot of it in my coop.

  5. 6

    Did you have difficulty with seed germination using the pro-mix as part of your ‘soil mixture’?

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