Cow Manure Vs. Mushroom Compost: Which Option Is Better?

cow manure vs mushroom compost
The main similarity between cow manure and mushroom compost is that both are made up of decomposed organic matter. Ultimately, mushroom compost is considered a better option for the garden because it is more high-quality. It is also easier to handle and store than cow manure.

Is Mushroom Compost the Same as Manure?

The main similarity between cow manure and mushroom compost is that both are made up of decomposed organic matter. In addition, these organic fertilizers are high in vital nutrients such as Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (N-P-K). 

However, there are some significant distinctions between the two in terms of use, composition, and manageability.

In terms of composition, manure is made up of animal droppings (feces and urine) which are entirely digested, grains, grass, and water.

Typically,  cow dung contains 3% nitrogen, 2%phosphorus, 1%potassium, ammonia, and potentially harmful pathogens.

On the other hand, mushroom compost is an organic compost containing a mixture of hay, used horse bedding, canola meal, straw, chicken manure, peat moss, corn cobs, gypsum,  horse manure, sawdust, and cottonseed hulls.

Mushroom compost has a 1:1:1 N-P-K ratio and other essential nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and iron.

Below is a table showing other differences between cow manure and mushroom compost:

CriteriumMushroom compostCow manure
SmellBearableStrong smell
Easo of managementLittle to no managementMore careful management
UsesPlant fertilizerVariety of purposes, for example, biogas production
ConsistencyLess thick, easier to useThick consistency

Mushroom Compost: Pros and Cons

Mushroom compost, sometimes referred to as spent mushroom substrate(SMS), acts as a soil conditioner by retaining moisture in the soil while supplying nutrients for plant growth.

You can buy mushroom spawn from the market or prepare it through composting.

The composting process can last up to four weeks, provided you monitor temperature consistently.

Here are some pros and cons of mushroom compost:

Pros of Mushroom Compost

  • Increases Water Retention: Mushroom compost helps the soil retain moisture making it suitable for soils with less water. An increase in water threshold also improves soil structure.  
  • Supplies Nutrients for Plant Growth: The organic material used to make mushroom compost are rich in potassium, phosphorus, nitrogen, and other minerals essential for healthy plants.
  • It’s Affordable: Mushroom compost is readily available and is cheaper than bagged fertilizers.
  • Easy Compatibility: It’s compatible with most garden vegetables, fruits, and plants.

Cons of Mushroom Compost

  • High Salt Levels: Fresh mushroom compost has high salt content making it unsuitable for salt-sensitive plants like azaleas, blueberries, and rhododendrons.
  • Contains Fungicide Residue: Usually, mushroom growers use fungicides to control plant diseases; thus, any remains may contaminate the compost pile.

Note: You should not add dairy products, oils, or grease to mushroom compost because it might produce a foul odor, attract pests, or, worse, take an eternity to decompose. 

Cow Manure: Pros and Cons

For healthy soils, most home gardeners top-dress their gardens with animal manure. Animal waste contains nutrients such as sulfur, phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium, which are beneficial to plants.

However, manure also carries diseases and pests. It is important to research the types of animals that produce manure before using it in your garden. 

Let’s look at the pros and cons of cow manure:

Pros of Cow Manure

  • Cow Manure Encourages the Growth of Good Bacteria in the soil, which speeds up nutrient uptake. 
  • Enhances Drainage and Soil Moisture Retention, which in return promotes soil health.
  • It’s Environmentally Friendly since it emits fewer greenhouse gases.
  • Acts as a Mulch to prevent nutrient loss, especially in warmer climates.
  • Improve Soil Aeration and allows plants to grow vigorously.

Cons of Cow Manure

  • Breeding Site for Bacteria: Since cow manure is a by-product of animal waste, it might have microbes like Escherichia coli (E.coli).
  • High Ammonia Concentration and Salt: Pathogens in fresh manure contain high ammonia levels that harm plants. Moreover, a lot of salt in the soil can severely burn your plants.
  • Contain Weed Seeds: Cows eat on weeds in the fields, and those that aren’t digested make it through the system and end up in the excrement.
  • Presence of Herbicides in the Feces: Manure containing herbicides damages solanaceous crops, legumes, and broadleaf plants.
  • May Contain Chemicals from Treatment: Because cows are injected frequently, the chemicals in the medicine might stay in the body and end up in the feces.

When to Use Mushroom Compost and When to Use Cow Manure

You can use mushroom compost when planting vegetables, fruits, and other plants in heavy clay soils because it helps break up the soil and makes planting easier. The best time to apply this compost is early spring or during summer.

At the same time, cow manure is suitable for planting in light soils or sandy areas because it helps improve drainage. You can apply manure to alkaline soils to increase the soil’s acidity needed for plant growth.

The easiest way to apply cow manure to your garden without risking diseases is to add it to your compost pile and allow it to decompose at high temperatures.

Extra Tip: Always do a soil test to determine nutrients, acidity or alkaline levels, and organic matter concentration before applying fertilizer.

The Verdict: Mushroom Compost vs Cow Manure

 Mushroom compost and cow manure are excellent organic garden amendments. They improve soil structure, increase nutrient availability, and help retain moisture.

Usually, mushroom compost is considered a better option for the garden because it is more high-quality. It is also easier to handle and store than cow manure.

But, it’s up to you to decide which one is best for your garden.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I mix cow manure with mushroom compost?

Yes, you can add cow manure to mushroom compost to create a soil amendment that will provide benefits such as improved water retention, increased fertility, and reduced weed growth.

 What other animal manure should I be using?

You can use other natural manures for growing plants, including chicken manure, sheep manure, rabbit manure, goat manure, and horse manure.

Where can I buy mushroom compost?

You can get mushroom compost from your garden store or online shops like Amazon.

Can mushroom compost burn plants?

Yes, mushroom compost can burn plant leaves because of salt content which dehydrates them. High levels of soluble salts also make roots rot. 


Discovering composting as a way of life or even better, as nature’s way of recycling, Ana dedicates her time to trying out new methods of composting at home. Her goal is to share everything that she’s learned in the hopes that it will help others discover the amazing rewards of composting.

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