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Compost questions for my Mel's Mix - Page 2 Toplef10Compost questions for my Mel's Mix - Page 2 1zd3ho10

Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

Compost questions for my Mel's Mix - Page 2 I22gcj10Compost questions for my Mel's Mix - Page 2 14dhcg10

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Compost questions for my Mel's Mix

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Post  goodtogrow 4/17/2022, 12:15 am

Chuck, sorry to hear about the poor results last year.  What was the 5 component blend for your compost last year?
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Post  Chuck d'Argy 4/17/2022, 3:29 am

I don't remember the details off the top of my head, and I am on travel for a long while now. Black Kow for sure, and 4 other components that I could find. Probably 1, maybe 2 weren't compost but something else, potting soul maybe. Like this year's planting will be a week or so after last frost date for western PA, last year was a little late. My tomatoes and potatoes did well, but everything else not so much. They never really achieved a full grown status.
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Post  Chuck d'Argy 4/17/2022, 3:33 am

So I am looking to add worm castings this year to whatever I can find. My home composting efforts failed miserably too, but that was too much manure and not enough other stuff. My homade tumbler worked ok though.

So I have been working to correct the MM composition and see if I can get the composter to do it's job.
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Post  goodtogrow 4/18/2022, 1:53 am

I'm reconsidering municipal compost, but I just cannot get past the fact that it comes from the general public and is not screened, tested, or checked in any way.

Does the composting process break down chemicals?  Why would that be important, you may ask?  Well, what if someone accidentally dropped a few of their perscription meds into their compost bin on collection day?  Do those pharmaceutical chemicals go straight through the composting process and affect the vegetable plants they are grown in?  What about other chemicals like flea powder, Raid spray, and even broadleaf herbicides, for example?  What about used oil?  Toilet bowl cleaner?

Sure, this type of stuff probably isn't put into compost bins intentionally - but then again there are some questionable people out there, are there not?

Does anyone know if the composting process actually breaks these types of things down to a safe, 'inert' state?  Because, I'm going to guess that for some of these harsher chemicals and pharmaceuticals, the anser is 'no'.
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Post  OhioGardener 4/18/2022, 8:39 am

goodtogrow wrote:Does the composting process break down chemicals?  Why would that be important, you may ask?  Well, what if someone accidentally dropped a few of their perscription meds into their compost bin on collection day?  Do those pharmaceutical chemicals go straight through the composting process and affect the vegetable plants they are grown in?  What about other chemicals like flea powder, Raid spray, and even broadleaf herbicides, for example?  What about used oil?  Toilet bowl cleaner?

Some chemicals are broken down, but most are not.  And example is if the grass is sprayed with herbicides and/or pesticides, and then the clippings are put into the collection bin.  Many of those herbicides and/or pesticides will break down, but others do not break down and they remain in the compost. The most dangerous herbicide being used right now is Grazon, which kills broadleaf plants while not harming grass. If that herbicide is used, it remains active in the compost and soil for years and it will kill vegetable plants.

Planet Nature had an excellent article on the herbicides and pesticides in compost that you may find interesting:
https://www.planetnatural.com/composting-101/compost-concerns/pesticides/

____________________________

"In short, the soil food web feeds everything you eat and helps keep your favorite planet from getting too hot. Be nice to it."  ~ Diane Miessler, "Grow Your Soil"
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Post  Chuck d'Argy 4/18/2022, 3:10 pm

Maybe someday we collectively, will have enough money to buy back the FDA and have them represent us for a change. Then maybe somebody would find alternatives to the chemicals cussed and discussed in the article above.
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Post  goodtogrow 4/18/2022, 4:07 pm

Thanks, OhioGardener, that is a great link and very informative.  From Clopyralid, to pH imbalances, to organophosphates, human sewage, and God knows what else, it pretty much confirms my suspicions about municipal compost, so I will avoid it.  Maybe it has its uses for growing flowers, but even for that it sounds like a bad idea.

A particularly telling paragraph reads,
"No organic gardener wants to introduce pesticides, and to have them arrive via compost would seem like the ultimate betrayal. Even if they do somehow get into your pile, many pesticides of all kinds — herbicides, insecticides, fungicides — break down into harmless chemicals during the composting process. But some, including several that have become increasingly common in recent years, do not."
Not to mention the issue of broadleaf fertilizer / Grazon that you pointed out and how bad that is (it can stop your plants from growing at all!).  It sure wouldn't be hard for grass clippings from a broadleaf-treated area of lawn to get into municipal compost.

And, as if that isn't bad enough, simply by using contaminated municipal compost, it will leach these toxins into the environment directly around your house and garden.

This link within that article you shared has even more (bad) info about municipal compost:
https://www.planetnatural.com/commercial-compost/

Which includes the following info,
"In 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency began allowing composts using sewage sludge to be called “recovered organic materials”...  Not everything that goes down the sewer has organic origins. As early as 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) described the components of sewage sludge like this: “… constituents may include volatiles, organic solids, nutrients, disease-causing pathogenic organisms (bacteria, viruses, etc.), heavy metals and inorganic ions, and toxic organic chemicals from industrial wastes, household chemicals and pesticides.”
That link also talks about how any compost derived from the forestry industry likely has herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers and chemical growth regulators in it.  Not to mention that some tree bark contains compounds that can stop or stunt plant growth.

And also how studies have shown that E. coil can be present in municipal compost made from sewage (UK, for example).
"The practice of spreading sewage sludge on farm land dates back to the 1960s and its use really took off in the ’90s as municipalities sought acceptable methods for disposing of sewage treatment by-products.  While the National Foods Processors’ Association says it does not endorse the use of sludge on crop land and some producers claim their products are grown without sludge, its continued use is one of the best reasons to buy organic products or grow your own.  But buying a few bags of compost at your local big-box home center may not guarantee you’re protecting your soil — and family — from the dangers of recovered sludge."
And that doesn't even address pharmaceuticals, which I do think are in municipal compost, as well.  I doubt those break down.

There is a list of compost makers who participate in testing, apparently, the list of whom can be found here:
https://www.compostingcouncil.org/page/participants
A step in the right direction, but still not enough.

Personally speaking, this is the single biggest and most concerning aspect to modern gardening.  The only solution appears to be to make your own compost and to be very careful about where any manure, if used, is sourced.  It is sad that many new gardeners and SFG enthusiasts may lose their interest due to a failed garden or SFG box due to bad compost and not even know if it failed due to bad, toxic compost.

Newbies, especially more urban ones, will search for compost, find some, not know this info, and then have their plants and crops fail and they will think it is something they did when it may have nothing to do with them - just bad, toxic compost.

If I were updating the next SFG book I sure would put all this new info about finding good, safe compost in there, since it is obviously way harder than first expected, and it can cause your entire SFG endeavor to totally fail.  It seems that this is a crucial aspect of gardening to me, and I'm a newbie, the very type of person who is running into this and who this info could help the most.

I wish I knew beforehand and didn't have to search high and low to learn these "hidden secrets" about the compost industry.  But, I've learned enough in life that we pretty much have to do that with almost everything these days, which is unfortunate.

As I said before, I'm sure learning a lot, and it often just raises more questions.  But at least we can be armed with this knowledge when trying to find decent compost sources.
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Post  PVPind 4/22/2022, 10:02 am

Along with perlite and vermiculite, we also make potting soils and in the past made mushroom compost for the mushroom industry. The mushroom compost uses a lot of manure. We don't make it anymore because of liabilities of what and where the manure comes from and could have in it. We've seen some really nasty stuff (syringes from pharmaceuticals from horse tracks, dead animals, fertilizers used to speed up the composting process, ect.) I always wanted to make a commercially available compost blend and at one time tried to contact the SFG Foundation to discuss it. After much research and discussions with industry partners, I determined it's not worth the trouble. It's better to sell my ingredients to the composter so they can make soil vs. risk my brand and company with all the issues discussed here. When people call I always recommend they contact local farms and look for food processors or food compost collection companies in their area. They can have much more control over their raw materials and typically know what is going into their raw materials to ensure the chemicals stay out. It's a very tricky situation to monitor and ensure what you are actually working with.
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Post  Chuck d'Argy 4/22/2022, 11:34 am

I have been relying on the OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute for those like me who only recently discovered they exist. And at 72 recently means sometime in the last 5 years) endorsements on materials that I buy. Is that organization reliable? As a retired engineer in my career I had to deal with professional weasel word people so I get anything goes and not only possible but probable. Like manufacturers can change their practices and materials after endorsement, and that sort of thing.
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Post  PVPind 4/22/2022, 11:54 am

I wouldn't say anything negative about OMRI. As you mentioned as long as the manufacturers are honest and stick to the practices they register it should be fine. 

I personally will not list my products perlite and vermiculite with OMRI. A few reasons. The biggest one is they charge based on the number of dollars we admit to selling into the horticultural industry. So the more I admit to selling the more they charge for the approval to use their emblem on my product. The next reason is each product has to have t's own certification. So there are three grades of vermiculite and 5 grades of perlite sold on the market. Each one has to be approved and charges for each product individually. Then there are many of my customers who are soil blenders who have to certify each product they use to make a soil blend. Even if mine is approved they have to again approve they haven't changed it and get approval for their blend as a whole anyways. So, we just provide them letters stating our processing and that our products are nothing more than the minerals themselves, and all farmers, soil manufacturers, and the like pay once for the same approval. Plus perlite and vermiculite are technically inorganic being made of rock vs. organic by definition being made from living matter. They're approved by the USDA for organic growing as long as they are not modified in any way. My customers and I are satisfied with that alone.

So my stance is it's kind of a racket and if I were honest with my sales into the industry, which I doubt many manufacturers are, I'd have to pay several thousands of dollars per product to get first approval and several hundreds of dollars annually to maintain that approval. Which would all add to price increases due to fees and time. In my opinion, OMRI on my bag is not necessary and redundant if the person using them knows even a little about what they are using. Although I do understand the following and why people look for the organic label. But it's kind of like McDonlands having to label their coffee cup with this might be hot. Yeah I know I just bought coffee and their coffee is always too hot anyways. lol
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Post  Chuck d'Argy 4/22/2022, 2:17 pm

Ok. I am not sure what I expected to hear about them, but I am not surprised. In a way it makes sense, they have to protect their brand too.

But thank you, it is good to know their endorsement means something anyway.


Last edited by sanderson on 4/23/2022, 4:02 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Admin edited.)
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