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Many hobby gardeners are increasingly relying on the use of natural and therefore organic fertilizers. These not only promote soil fertility, but are also extremely plant-friendly and protect the environment. In addition to compost and manure, horn shavings are now very popular as fertilizer. Because they are the ideal nitrogen suppliers in the garden. Nitrogen is vital for plants. For fresh fruit and vegetables from your own garden, there is nothing better than these organic fertilizers: You just can't get more "BIO".

horn shavings fertilizer

Horn shavings and horn meal are made from the hooves and horns of slaughtered animals. Since cattle are often dehorned here due to the way they are kept, this raw material comes mainly from overseas, more precisely from South America. There herds of cattle are still kept freely in the vastness of the pampas.
The hooves and horns are crushed and depending on the degree of grinding

  • Horn shavings - grain size larger than 5 mm
  • Horn meal - grain size less than 1 mm
  • Horn meal/semolina - grain size between 1 mm and 5 mm

It is a secondary raw material like compost or wood ash. The only horn mill made by the Oscorna company in Germany is located near Ulm.

notice: Fertilizers made from secondary raw materials are made from animal waste products.

No over-fertilization possible

When using horn shavings and horn meal as fertilizer, it is not possible to over-fertilize the soil or burn the plants. Horn shavings supply the plants with the nitrogen they need for life in the long term. One kilogram of horn fertilizer contains 100 to 150 grams of nitrogen. Compared to mineral fertilizers, the effect is long-term for up to three months, since the nutrients are distributed evenly to the plants. Horn shavings are slowly broken down by microorganisms living in the soil and the nitrogen and other nutrients are released. The plants can then absorb them evenly over a longer period of time. An overdose is completely excluded.

The same applies to horn meal. However, the effect here usually lasts only a few weeks, so that additional fertilization is necessary.
If a little more horn fertilizer is applied, this is not a concern. On the other hand, with an overdose of mineral fertilizers, it looks like this:

  • irrigation will wash excess mineral fertilizers from the soil
  • enters the groundwater unhindered
  • on the other hand, biological fertilizers decompose slowly
  • are taken up by plants over a long period of time


Nevertheless, some guidelines should be observed when dosing horn shavings and horn meal as fertilizer.

  • Top fertilization for heavy consumers 5 g/m²
  • corresponds to one tablespoon of shavings with four doses per year per m²
  • Spread and work in 100 to 150 g of shavings/m² (two hands full) when fertilizing the area
  • best time for month April
  • When fertilizing the lawn, use 30 g horn shavings or horn meal per m²
  • If the lawn turns yellow due to a lack of nitrogen, use 30 g flour/m²
  • Spread fertilizer over a large area on damp lawn
  • Mow the lawn short beforehand and remove weeds
  • For balconies and potted plants, mix 1 liter of soil with 10 g of shavings (a heaped tablespoon).
  • depending on the size of the plant, additional fertilization is required (2 to 3 teaspoons)

Alternatively, 100 g of horn fertilizer can be mixed with soil when planting new fruit, vegetables, ornamental plants, shrubs, hedges and also when planting in cemeteries. An additional 100 g/m² should then be sprinkled around the plants or between the rows of plants and lightly worked into the soil.

tip: As a rule of thumb when dosing horn shavings and horn meal as fertiliser: the smaller the grain size, the corresponding amount of horn fertilizer is reduced, of course always depending on the type of crop in question. However, a corresponding re-fertilization is then necessary.

In addition, liquid fertilizer can also be easily produced:

  • Pour lukewarm water over the horn shavings
  • Let the broth steep for at least three to four days
  • then strain and pour into a bottle
  • put a capful in the water
  • ideal for potted plants where there is a lack of nitrogen
  • not suitable for hydroponics

tip: Horn fertilizer is normally not poisonous. However, four weeks before harvesting, there should be no more fertilization, as otherwise large amounts of nitrogen are contained in the leaves of cabbage and lettuce. Consumption is harmful to the human organism.

correct application

In order for this natural product to be able to develop its full effect, you should pay attention to a few things when applying it in the garden. In principle, however, the application is quite simple:

  • spread and spread evenly by hand on moist soil
  • distribution around plants is also possible
  • Carefully work a few centimeters into the soil
  • do not damage roots
  • Put directly into the planting hole when planting new plants
  • Application to the compost recommended
  • promotes rotting and quality
  • When fertilizing lawns, use fertilizer wagons for good dosing
  • then rinse thoroughly
  • Nutrients are dissolved faster and odors are reduced
  • when mulching beds, apply horn fertilizer underneath
  • Bark mulch removes nitrogen from the soil for its decomposition
  • Horn fertilizer thus causes mulch to decompose into compost

tip: Horn fertilizer proves useful in the fight against snails. This is probably due to its smell. Spreading around the endangered plants is enough. Snails will then avoid them.

Is horn fertilizer toxic?

It can be said with confidence that this biological fertilizer is usually not toxic and therefore not harmful to health. However, particularly sensitive people can have an allergic reaction when they come into contact with horn dust. You should wash your hands and face after use. It is even better to wear gloves when applying.

Since the origin of the animals cannot be fully clarified, the suspicion of transmission of BSE sometimes arises. According to the EU Commission, however, the use was classified as harmless, since the horn and hooves consist exclusively of dead tissue. It does not contain any nerve tissue that could trigger BSE.
Even the addition "BIO" on the packaging cannot always guarantee that the animals really come from organic farming. Other additives, such as ricin, are usually added to the horn meal fertilizer. This is highly toxic and its effect can be compared to that of slug pellets. You should definitely pay attention to whether a ricin treatment has been carried out when buying. It should be listed under the ingredients label.

  • Ricin/castor meal is produced when castor oil is extracted
  • not fat soluble
  • Residues are heated to decompose poison
  • are popular additives in animal feed and organic fertilizers
  • not forbidden in Germany
  • Brand manufacturers such as Neudorff and Oscorna do not add anything

For these reasons, it is advisable to use products from brand manufacturers. No-name brands from the supermarket are not guaranteed to be free of the toxic ricin.

These additives can be particularly dangerous for dogs and can even lead to death. Dogs are crazy about horn shavings, these protein-rich granules. The smell is tempting. As soon as horn fertilizer is spread in the garden, the beloved four-legged friends start digging up the garden if there is a chance to do so. You should therefore water the treated area well afterwards. The smell is then no longer so pronounced.

Alternatives to horn fertilizer

Certainly, many a hobby gardener will struggle with the use of horn fertilizer, since it generally consists of animal raw materials. But that does not mean that you have to do without organic fertilizers in the garden, because here are some alternatives:


Every hobby gardener certainly has a compost heap in their garden. Here he can easily make the fertilizer himself at will.

  • best organic fertilizer
  • consists of plant waste
  • decomposed by soil organisms
  • use composters to speed up decomposition
  • Rule of thumb for fertilization: "Less is more"
  • contains high concentration of nutrients
  • promotes good growth
  • Work into the surface of the soil before planting or sowing

earthworm humus

If you have earthworms in your garden, you can count yourself lucky, because they loosen up the soil and create good hummus.

  • Compost worms are used for production
  • decompose humus-rich, organic material
  • Nutrients can be easily absorbed by plants
  • contains high concentration of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium

malt germ fertilizer

This product is free of animal components and harmless to humans and animals.

  • consists of malt germs
  • Sugar beet waste and beer production
  • odorless
  • contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium
  • has a long-term effect of at least three months
  • good for rooting

plant manure

Various plant broths can be used both as fertilizers and as pesticides. They are all very easy to produce yourself and are good alternatives to horn shavings fertilizer.

  • fermenting approaches from plant material and water
  • very popular nettles and comfrey
  • during fermentation, nutrients such as leaf-strengthening silicic acid and iron are dissolved
  • to prepare, chop the leaves and stems and cover with water
  • cover and leave for three to four days, stirring occasionally
  • addition of rock flour or algae lime to bind odors
  • when no more bubbles rise, the brew is ready after 14 days

green manure

Here certain plants are sown on the fields after the harvest. They are used to improve the soil.

  • very popular lupine, yellow mustard, phacelia, summer vetch and frost hardy winter peas
  • Don't harvest plants
  • remain in the bed throughout the winter
  • serve to loosen the soil
  • Enrichment with organic substances
  • bind dissolved nutrients
Spinach as green manure

horse manure and cow manure

It is an excellent organic fertilizer from organically farmed herbivorous mammals. However, if using fresh manure, be sure to land or compost it properly. Otherwise it would be too sharp in its composition and damage to the plants would occur. Alternatively, there are also cow dung, horse and chicken manure in pellet form in specialist shops. When using it, make sure that the products do not come from conventional husbandry. Because otherwise it could contain residues of antibiotics and other harmful substances.

Finished natural fertilizers

These are ready-mixed organic fertilizers. The trade offers organic fertilizers made from plant (grape seed flour, sugar beet residues, also cocoa shells) and animal (horn fertilizer, guano, chicken and cow manure) waste residues.

  • Nutrients are mostly organically bound here
  • accessible to plants through soil organisms
  • promote soil life and humus formation
  • long-term effect

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