Adding Manure to Grass Seed Creates a Lush Lawn

Man takes organic fertilizer, better known as cow manure, from feedlot and adds it to grass seed for his new lawn.

| January/February 2013

  • Illustration Tractor Hauling Manure
    A farmer spreads manure from his freedlot on his fields of corn and beans.
    Illustration By Michele Tremaine
  • Illustration Green Lawn
    A lush lawn, the envy of the neighborhood, was the result of all that manure and mulch.
    Illustration By Michele Tremaine

  • Illustration Tractor Hauling Manure
  • Illustration Green Lawn

I’ll concede that some gardeners know far more about organic fertilizers than I ever will. I can see them sitting around the patio table discussing the comparative merits of bat guano or kelp, or maybe bone meal or worm castings. They likely know when to add rock phosphate or copper sulfate to their soil, and they probably have bags of peat moss stacked in the potting shed.

I am not one of them. My knowledge of organic fertilizer can be summed up in one word: manure.

I was raised in the middle of the country, where the farm supply stores didn’t carry a whole lot of bat guano or seaweed extract. Our farm did, however, include a cattle feedlot holding maybe 75 head. Just big enough for my dad and me to keep them well fed twice a day, and bedded down with straw when melting snow and spring rains turned the corrals into a sloppy mess.

Every spring, before we started plowing, my dad would scrape the accumulated manure out of the feedlot with a tractor and a front-loader and pile it into an old manure spreader. Then I’d hop on the tractor and pull the spreader to a nearby field, where I spread the free fertilizer over as many acres as the manure supply allowed. As I recall, the fields of corn and beans were always a little greener, and grew a little faster, where the manure supply was thickest.

Fast forward a few years, when my wife and I bought a tract home in a newly constructed suburb on the outskirts of Denver. Our new home, indeed, every home in the entire neighborhood, was constructed on deep sand, with nary a trace of topsoil. This, I thought, posed a potential problem when it was time to get a new lawn started.

My new neighbors, unacquainted with the principles of soil science, simply spread grass seed over the sand, applied dry fertilizer and water, and hoped for the best. I, on the other hand, drew on my vast experience with manure to devise the perfect plan. 

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