What Is Well Rotted Manure? Dark, Crumbly & Odour Free Manure That Has Been Composted To Break It Down & Destroy Weeds Seeds. Read More Below On How To Make Your Own Well Rotted Manure Based Compost.

Compost adds a wide range of essential plant nutrients
Compost adds a wide range of essential plant nutrients

Many gardeners struggle to understand exactly what well rotted compost is. And the difference between manure and compost often confuses even well established gardeners. So let me start by defining a few of the words we need to understand when talking about What Is Well Rotted Manure?


Manure is simply animal dung. Nothing more an nothing less. It could be from cows, pigs, poultry, sheep or horses. The most common ones sold in volume tends to be from cows or horses.


Compost is organic matter that has been decayed, usually in a compost heap, to produce a crumbly, pleasant smelling material that can be added to the soil to feed the soil and plants. Many gardeners have a compost heap and there are details on how to make a compost heap and my composting top ten tips if you follow the links.

Animal Bedding

Animal bedding, usually just called bedding, is the material that is used for the animals to lie on when housed. Traditionally it would have been bracken or even moorland sods (see the article on Plaggensols to lean more about this). today it is more likely to be straw, woodchip or even sawdust.

The bedding is topped up on a regular basis to keep the cattle clean and dry. In stables the practice is slightly different as the manure is removed every day.

So What is Well Rotted Manure?

Well rotted manure is virtually indistinguishable from peat, compost or some soils. Its a darkish, crumbly product that that no smell and very no visible bedding in it (or just very small pieces).

It shouldn’t be hot or steamy. If it is then it’s not yet finished rotting down (decomposing).

Well rotten compost will probably;y have heated up a lot when decomposing and this will have killed most of the weeds. However, if the manure has rotted down quite slowly it may not have heated up so high and some weed seed will have probably survived. High temperatures and fast decomposition go together.

That’s it basically. But let me now answer some of the questions related to What Is Well Rotted Manure?

How Long Before Manure Is Well Rotted?

It can take anything from a few weeks to as much as a year. The speed depends on many factors. But, as a rule of thumb, the hotter the heap of manure gets the faster it will rot down.

Can You Buy Well Rotted Manure?

Is All Manure Well Rotted?

Yes. A number of compost retailers sell well rotted manure in bags. This tends to eb fairly standard quality product. You can also buy well rotted manure from stables, farms and other animal based businesses.

But don’t necessarily believe it when they say the compost is well rotted.

The first manure mage shows what I had delivered as well rotted manure. One look. told me it wasn’t. The manure was still in lumps, the fibre in it very obvious and it smelt very strong!

What Is Well Rotted Manure?
What Is Well Rotted Manure?

I had two choices with it. Compost it myself or speared it on the soil and let it break down over winter. The photo shows it in January, after being on the soil for several months, and the weed are beginning to grow. At the moment the birds are picking it over every day looking for insects so the disturbance will kill most of the weeds. But some will persist and I’ll need to use cardboard covered in a thin layer of clean compost to stop the remaining weeds. The soil will benefit from the manure but it has created a lot of extra work. I wish I’d been home when this was delivered!

The second manure mage is of well rotted manure with a few pieces of very short straw in it. The straw, in this case, keeps the manure more open and aerated.

Can I Plant Straight Into Well-Rotted Manure?

Yes. I used well rotted manure on No Dig beds and in containers and plant straight into it. I also mix it 50:50 with sterilised loam to make my seed compost and it is a very good seed growing medium. BUT it must be well rotted.

Can You Leave Manure On Top Of Soil?

Yes. Thats exactly what I do with my No Dig and there is no weed problem provided it is well rotted.

How Do You Know When Manure Is Ready To Use?

It’ll be smell free, crumbly and probably quite dark in colour.

What Makes Manure Decay Faster?

Warmth. The hotter it naturally gets as it rots the faster it breaks down. Piled high in a field in autumn it’ll often steam in the cool air.

What’s The Alternative to Well Rotted Manure?

Home made compost is a good alternative. But nothing much beats good well rotted manure. It’s natures way of recycling animal waste.

Can Pet Manure Be Used As An Alternative To Farmyard Manure?

No. Pet dung potentially carries several diseases and parasites that are dangerous to humans. Don’t go there!

Danger From Aminopyralids in Manures

There is a potential problem in using manures that we should be aware of Aminopyralid contamination. Aminopyralid and Clopyralid are weedkillers used by farmers AND gardeners to kill broad-leafed weeds in grass. The problem is that they are persistent and can contaminate manures if the grass (hay or silage) then gets into the manure. This can affect vegetable crops where the manure has been used.

I’ll be posting about how to recognise and test for aminopyralid in a few days


If you have questions please leave a comment and I’ll add answers to this post.

Tag: What Is Well Rotted Manure?

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