Best Alternatives To Horn Shavings Fertilizer? Use These

Are you looking for an alternative to horn shavings that has just as good a long-term effect and contains a lot of nitrogen?

Then you are in the right place, because I give you an overview of the best or best known animal-free nitrogen fertilizers and the alternatives to horn shavings, which are animal but can be used without a bad conscience.

Hornspäne

As an alternative to horn shavings, both vegetable substances, such as grape marc, malt germ fertilizer or vinasse, and animal substances, such as guano, horse manure or wool, can be used. Plant alternatives to horn shavings, at an average of 3-5%, have a much lower nitrogen content than the animal alternatives, which at up to 12% have almost the same amount of nitrogen as horn shavings themselves.

What are the alternatives to horn shavings?


There are both plant and animal materials that can be used as an alternative to horn shavings (like these from Dehner*) in the garden.

If you want to avoid horn shavings as a fertilizer due to ethical concerns, there are a number of plant-based, and therefore vegan, alternatives that can be used as a nitrogen supplier.

Thus, for example, quite classic compost or nettle manure, but also castor meal or grape pomace can serve as horn shavings alternative.

If animal materials are still a possibility as a fertilizer, but responsible and safe use is important to you, then there are also some alternatives to horn shavings, for example from horse manure, raw wool or guano.

Are alternative fertilizers as effective as horn shavings?


Not all alternatives to horn shavings* are as effective as horn shavings themselves, which have a nitrogen content of 10-14%. Only wool pellets* or raw wool* or guano* can match this fertilizer effect, with all plant-based alternatives to horn shavings having at most half the nitrogen content.

To best replace horn shavings, the nitrogen content of the alternative should also be similar or as high as possible and delivered evenly over a longer period of time.

In the following table, I have summarized the nitrogen content of the various plant and animal horn chip alternatives:

FertilizerNitrogen content (average)
Horn shavings10 – 14%
Plant alternatives to horn shavingsCompost1%
Lawn clippingsNo exact specification
Green manure2%
Plant slurry0,04–0,06%
Grape marcApprox. 7%
Castor bean meal5% – 7%
Veggie Fertilizer from Neudorff*5%
Kleepura*3,5
Malt germ fertilizer*Mind. 5%
Vinasse (beet)*4-5%
Potato fruit water concentrate1-2%
Animal alternatives to horn shavingsGuano* (70%)11%
Horse manure0,4%
Wool pellets* or raw wool*10-12%

When comparing hornspan alternatives, it becomes clear that only two of the alternatives fertilizers can keep up with the nutrient content: Guano and wool pellets or raw wool.

The majority of the alternatives, including grape pomace or vinasse*, have a nitrogen content between 3.5-7%, which is about half the nitrogen content of horn shavings.

On the other hand, some classic, homemade fertilizers, such as lawn clippings or compost, have a fairly low nitrogen content of less than 2%

Plant-based alternatives to horn shavings


Compost as an alternative to horn shavings
Compost can be used as a classic nitrogen fertilizer in the garden and thus serve as an alternative to horn shavings.

However, the nitrogen content of compost is much lower than that of horn shavings (at its lowest, only one-tenth). This means that you should spend a little more compost or switch to another fertilizer with a higher nitrogen content, especially for highly nutritious crops (e.g. potatoes, cabbage or tomatoes).

Advantages

Free of charge or very cheap
Large quantities available
Easy to use


Disadvantages

Low nitrogen content compared to horn shavings
Partially coarser texture, so nutrients do not get directly into the soil


Lawn clippings as an alternative to horn shavings


Lawn clippings can also be used to mulch or fertilize the garden. You can read about what to consider when mulching here.

However, lawn clippings also have a lower nitrogen content than horn shavings and are therefore less nutritious for plants.

How high the exact nitrogen content of lawn clippings is I could not find out or have no way to measure this. Do you have an accurate and reliable statement/source? Then feel free to write me in the comments.

In addition, lawn clippings are not a real long-term fertilizer, as they decompose much faster and thus cannot release nutrients for as long.

Advantages

Free of charge
Regularly available
Easy to use

Disadvantages

Low nitrogen content compared to horn shavings
No long-term effect


Green manure as an alternative to horn shavings


Green manure or legume fertilizer is also suitable as an alternative to horn shavings, although it has a much lower nitrogen content of only about 2%.

Green manure or legume fertilizer includes yellow mustard, field beans (field bean meal), vetches or lupines.

Green manures can either be left directly on the bed over winter or the grains of the plants can be ground, dried or ensiled with or without grass and used for fertilizer.

Advantages

Many different types available
Relatively high potassium content
Easy to use


Disadvantages

Low nitrogen content compared to horn shavings


Nettle liquid manure or other plant liquid manure as an alternative to horn shavings


Nettle liquid manure is another alternative to horn shavings that can be used in the garden.The nutrient and especially the nitrogen content of plant liquid manure is much lower than that of horn shavings.

More specifically, plant slurry has a nitrogen content of only 0.04-0.06%, which is a fraction of that of horn shavings.

Nevertheless, plant and especially nettle manure is a proven, natural and vegetable fertilizer that is great to use in the garden.

Advantages

Free to make yourself
Also in larger quantities to manufacture
Liquid fertilizer, thus directly in the soil and on roots


Disadvantages

Very low nitrogen content

Needs time in which the slurry should stand out

Grape pomace as an alternative to horn shavings


Grape pomace from vineyards is an effective and purely vegetable alternative to horn shavings with a nitrogen content of about 7%.

This is about half the nitrogen content of horn shavings themselves, making grape pomace one of the most nitrogen-rich, plant-based fertilizer alternatives available.

Advantages

Relatively high nitrogen content for a plant-based fertilizer
Available for purchase in large packages


Disadvantages

Not available everywhere, making it more difficult to obtain

Castor bean meal as an alternative to horn shavings


Castor meal is a waste product produced during the manufacture of castor oil and can be used as a nitrogen fertilizer instead of horn shavings.

The nitrogen content in castor meal is comparatively high for a vegetable fertilizer at about 5-7%.

Advantages

Comparatively high nitrogen content

Disadvantages

Very difficult to buy, i.e. only available for purchase in very few, special stores

Azet Veggie fertilizer from Neudorff as an alternative to horn shavings


In addition to natural nitrogen fertilizers, which are either a waste product (e.g. grape pomace) or can be produced yourself (e.g. compost), there are now also purely plant-based fertilizers that can be found in garden specialty stores.

For example, Neudorff’s Azet VeggieFertilizer (as available here*), which has a fairly high nitrogen content of 5% and can thus be used as a good alternative to horn shavings.

Advantages

Easy to buy from a specialist retailer or on the Internet
Consistent quality and constant nitrogen content


Disadvantages

Not self-produced, therefore no complete transparency about the ingredients

Only available in small quantities (750g package)

Kleepura as an alternative to horn shavings


Kleepura is pure plant-based, organically produced and Naturland certified organic fertilizer made from clover that can be used in pellet form as a substitute for horn shavings

At 3.5% nitrogen, Kleepura is in the mid-range of plant-based horn chip alternatives, serving as a good nutrient source.

Advantages

Sufficiently high nitrogen content
Easy application and dosage due to the pellet form
Organic certified by Naturland


Disadvantages

Only available for purchase in selected retail stores or online

Malt germ fertilizer as an alternative to horn shavings


Malt germ fertilizer (such as this one*) has a nitrogen content of over 5% and can therefore be used as a good alternative to horn shavings for fertilizing in the garden.

Malt germ fertilizer is sold in pellet form and consists of two main ingredients:

Malt germ, which is a waste product left over from the production of malt (which is used for brewing beer, for example)
Vinasse, which is made from sugar beets (can also be used pure as a nitrogen fertilizer; more on this in the next section).


Advantages

Sufficiently high nitrogen content
Easy to apply and dose due to pellet form
Can be purchased quite inexpensively in larger quantities


Disadvantages

Usually only available in special stores or specialized stores

Vinasse (beet) as an alternative to horn shavings


Vinasse, with a nitrogen content of usually 4-5%, has a similar high nutrient content as malt sprout fertilizer and thus also serves as a good substitute for horn shavings to fertilize the garden.

Vinasse is available in organic quality here*.

Vinasse is a viscous, honey-like, dark brown syrup which is obtained as a by-product from molasses (molasses is a by-product of sugar production from sugar beets, among other things) through fermentation.

Thus, vinasse is also a completely vegetable fertilizer, which is mainly used in agriculture, but can also be used in home gardens.

Advantages

Sufficiently high nitrogen content
Can be bought quite cheaply in larger quantities


Disadvantages

Viscous syrup that is often not easy to dose and is sticky
Can usually only be bought in large quantities

Potato fruit water as an alternative to horn shavings.


Potato fruit water or potato fruit water concentrate can be used as a complete organic fertilizer as an alternative to horn shavings in the garden. With a nitrogen content of about 1-2%, potato fruit water is quite low in nutrients as a plant fertilizer.

Since potato fruit water or the concentrate is mainly used in professional agriculture, it is not very common among private gardeners* and sometimes not even available for purchase in small quantities.

Advantages

Conscious recycling of a waste product of starch production

Easy to use as it is available in liquid form


Disadvantages

Relatively low nitrogen content
Mostly used only in agriculture and thus often not available in smaller quantities for private individuals to buy
Animal-based, but unobjectionable alternatives to horn shavings


Guano (70%) as an alternative to horn shavings


Guano is a fertilizer alternative, which is produced from the excrements of birds, but sometimes also bats or seals and contains a very high proportion of nitrogen but also phosphate and potassium.

Guano is available, for example, here from Compo*.

More precisely, guano with 11% nitrogen content is one of the most effective alternatives to horn shavings, which, however, due to its origin is not purely vegetable, but animal.

However, since guano is the excrement of animals, it is a no-brainer animal-based fertilizer alternative for which no animals are slaughtered for its production.

Advantages

Very high nitrogen content
Comes in both liquid and pellet form
Can be easily dosed and applied


Disadvantages

In some guano fertilizers is only a certain amount of guano, which means the effect is partly weakened
Comparatively expensive


Horse manure as an alternative to horn shavings


Horse manure is another alternative to horn shavings, but with about 0.4% nitrogen it contains only a fraction of the amount of nitrogen in horn shavings.

Horse manure should first be allowed to settle for at least 6 months, preferably 1 year, before it can be used as a fertilizer. Alternatively, horse manure can be purchased and applied in the form of pellets.

Other animal manure, e.g. from goats, sheep or chickens, can also be used as fertilizer in the garden in a seasoned form.

Caution.

Especially with chicken manure caution is required! Because if this comes from large farms, there are still residues of antibiotics or possibly salmonella in the manure. Thus, if, then I would only recommend to fertilize with chicken manure from a small, private chicken farming.

Advantages

Very low nitrogen content
Horse manure can sometimes be collected free of charge
Can be easily dosed and applied in pellet form


Disadvantages

Must first be stored for at least 6 months

Wool pellets as an alternative to horn shavings


Another very effective alternative to horn shavings are wool pellets (like these) or raw wool (available in organic quality here) from sheep or goats. These have a nitrogen content of 10-12%, which is almost identical to that of horn shavings themselves.

Although this is an animal product, no animal is slaughtered for it; the sheep are shorn regularly anyway, which is very good for them.

As an alternative to wool pellets, raw wool can of course be used for fertilizer. Raw wool has a larger volume and is therefore not quite as convenient to use, but works just as well.

Advantages

Very high nitrogen content
Very easy to use and dose in pellet form.


Disadvantages

Partly only available in selected stores

Tip.

If you own a cat or dog, you can also use cat or dog hair as an alternative to horn shavings.

Often cats or dogs shed a lot of hair or need to be trimmed. Simply collect the hair and use it as fertilizer, similar to wool, by incorporating it into the soil or adding a small clump at a time to the planting holes.