Organic Compost?


When I met the new homeowner, she seemed frazzled, overwhelmed with the details of relocating.   On top of all that, she now has a large property to do something with and doesn’t feel up to the task.  Landscapers had been by and not one had gone into her back yard, let alone approach the gate.  This baffled me because when I drove up to her place, all I wanted to do was poke around.  Maybe I’m just nosey but I fell in love with her little cottage and the lot it sits on has a ton of potential.  One area shaded by ancient Banyan and the other end of the property opens up to full sun.  This is where the tiki hut and pool are.  Wow, my mind was full of ideas.

We spent about 2 hours together that day.  As I made my way back to my truck, she mentioned she had a couple more people to talk to.  She told me how much better she felt after talking, now realizing her neglected landscape wasn’t the big bad giant waiting to slay her but was really a jewel in the rough.  I left with this in mind… even if I don’t get the job that has to be the nicest turn-down I will ever get!

I ended up getting the job and that first day I spent time getting familiar with all that is going on.  Most plants showed signs of stress, poor root development, possible nutrient deficiencies along with playing host to assorted pests.  With no knowledge of the previous owners plant care, it’s difficult to pin-point the cause of all her plant problems.  After rolling it around in my head, my conscience wouldn’t allow me to start installing all kinds of new plants without giving them the best chance of survival in our already poor Florida soil.  I figured the best place to start would be to amend it by working in some compost. I went to the landscape wholesaler, purchased a bunch of compost and was feeling all responsible when I came across this…

 “The Grossest Composting News Ever” .  An article talking about how sludge companies are permitted to sell their processed sewage to us.  For hundreds of years, we have tilled the earth and yes, we have added poop to the mix.   I just assumed it was a more organic poop.  Not so.  Now that it’s against the law to dump the junk in the ocean, we had to find a way to get rid of it so we are now processing human sewage and marketing it as bio-solids.

I just threw a bunch of compost around this woman’s property and realized I didn’t read the label on the compost.  I’ve lived in ignorant bliss by not realizing I need to read a label on my compost!  My only advice is to start composting now (which I have done) and if you can’t compost… read the label of whatever product you have to choose from.  It may not matter to some but if you’re wanting to be as organic in your gardening, it does matter so be informed.

In a perfect world…

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could trust companies that are selling these products to fully disclose what is in them?  Look at Scotts.  Would their birdseed sell as fast if they advertised clearly that there is poison in it?  A label may say organic but labeling compost products that include sludge and biosolids as organic is stretching it a bit and is a tool the PR department uses to sell human waste.  It’s not only compost, check your fertilizer and potting soil labels too.

Be an informed consumer: 

I don’t have a “proper” bin, I have a huge grow pot.  I started throwing my kitchen scraps, plant clippings, and various other materials into it.  I give it a stir every couple of days and watch all the worms wriggle around.  It may take longer to break down the materials as opposed to a conventional bin… I don’t know but it works for me and I know what’s in it!

If you can’t make your own compost, it’s best to be skeptical about bagged organic soil amendments and avoid compost that lists “biosolids” as an ingredient. Compost is crumbly, dark, and earthy smelling, not heavy and caked together with an ammonia or sewer smell.


Soil Organic Matter, Green Manures and Cover Crops For Nematode Management:  Much of the soil in Florida is very sandy and has very little organic matter. Vegetables, flowers and landscape plants grown in soil that is high in organic matter often are less damaged by nematodes than plants grown in soil with less organic matter content. Any kind of organic soil amendment, including compost, green manures, and lightly incorporated organic mulches, can have this effect. Organic amendments can both improve tolerance of the plant to nematodes and reduce nematode populations. However, they can not magically eliminate a severe nematode infestation overnight. They are better suited to keeping nematode populations relatively low than reducing high ones. There are several ways in which organic soil amendments may help reduce nematode injury to plants.

Preferable or Profitable?…

“Branded Products that contain sewage sludge”

“Sarasota County plans more stringent rules for reusing biosolids”:  Land-spreading of biosolids for agricultural purposes is considered by the EPA, the state DEP and the county’s Air and Water Quality section to be preferable to disposal by either incineration or “land-filling.” Burning would increase air emissions, such as carbon dioxide, a global warming concern. Land-filling of biosolids, a reusable product, would consume limited landfill capacity at a time when nationwide efforts encourage everyone to recycle when possible. (A federal ban on ocean dumping became effective Jan. 1, 1992.)


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