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All Compost is not created equally: It’s Buyer Beware

by | May 15, 2017 | Soil | 0 comments

Compost sold commercially isn’t always all it is cracked up to be. Sometimes it is completely dead and void of life and sometimes it is downright dangerous.

Distinctly curled leaves on Prairie Sun Rudbeckia is a sign of herbicide damage – possibly added with compost

So when I was asked by Calgary CBC’s investigative reporter Allison Dempster to contribute to a CBC interview this week I suggested she think about a few tough questions before she completed her interview. I am passing those tough questions along to my readers so that if you need to buy compost this weekend you can be more informed.

#1 Is your compost packed with humic acids? These acids are the stable carbon left in the compost after the microbes break down big chunks of organic matter. They are stable in the soil and can last for a long time. They are the bits and pieces that make you hands dirty when you handle soil or compost. If the water leaking from your compost is not brown something is wrong. Or, if your hands are clean after handling compost, something is missing. Stay away from compost that is too clean.

Compostable bags and other garbage can be added to commercial or home compost

#2 Does your Compost smell good? If it is stinky in any way something is wrong. Maybe it hasn’t aged enough or maybe it was made under low oxygen conditions so you are left with too many anaerobic bacteria. Remember E. Coli is an example of an anaerobic (oxygen starved) bacteria. Your compost should smell fresh like a field in the spring or good rich earth. Bad smelling compost is bad for you and bad for your garden.

#3 Is your Compost alive and full of living, breathing organisms?

Microbes are numerous in worm castings created by worms in your special bin or in your regular compost

If the compost is bagged and the words ‘Sterilized’ or ‘Pasteurized’ are on the bag stay away from the product. Buy bulk if you can because there is a better change bulk products have life in them. If you can, ask the compost maker if air was added and piles were turned. This all contributes to life in the finished product.

#4 Is your compost fresh and full of good ingredients or made from garbage?

The old saying “garbage in = Garbage out” is so true of compost. it is buyer beware with compost. Instead of relying on buying compost made from questionable materials including toxic wastes or heavily sprayed produce, or garbage that has been sitting in oxygen-starved piles, buy yourself a composter and start making your own green gold this spring with the best materials from your yard! If it heats up so much the better! Your soil life will be more variable.

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