Be Aware Where Your Compost Comes From

David Trammel's picture

I know some people use hay and straw in their gardens, just be aware of where that comes from, it could be laced with chemicals you don't want in your garden.

Contaminated compost: How an industrial herbicide is ruining backyard gardens

"In years past, Iris Nason has volunteered at a school garden in Portland, Oregon. When the garden became off-limits this year due to the pandemic, she decided to expand her home garden. Nason bought five 150-gallon pots and lots of extra soil and planted more starts than she ever had before.

“I thought I’d grow for the community at my house,” she said.

Like many others who got into gardening during quarantine, Nason took photos of her starts nearly every day. She traded seeds by mail and even used it to barter toilet paper from the neighbors. In late April, she moved her tomatoes into the outdoor beds, containing new soil from a local supplier. A week later, she knew something was wrong. Her healthy starts were twisted and the leaves began curling and cupping into strange shapes. Nason is a long-time gardener but had never seen anything like this before. She posted photos in a local gardening group and discovered many others were experiencing similar things with their gardens. They all had one thing in common: the company they’d gotten their soil amendment from—soil that had been contaminated with the herbicide clopyralid."

Indeed. I have heard of that from other people and the usual culprit is the compost you get from the dump. Well to date, I have had no problems with dump compost that I can tell. Not that it couldn't happen, but so far, so good. I know some of the companies around here that sell compost are very selective about where they get their compostable material from in fact they only take it from commercial tree trimmers, but I don't know if that is any guarantee. One of these companies composts with sewage sludge, supposedly another bad source of pollutants for your garden.

ClareBroommaker's picture

I'd read of this Clopyralid problem, too, but I did not even think to ask when I bought hay recently. Hope I won't need more inputs like that after I get the new garden space going, reviving it from its run down, used up state.

My city adds the autumn street sweepings to their compost, because they encourage people to rake their fallen leaves out to the curb just before street cleaning day. All the leaves get taken for composting, but this means they are full of the sand and small rocks that loosened out of the asphalt. And all the *gunk* that drips and falls on the streets. So I am wary of using that compost. I'd rather just collect and use the leaves directly, leaving the city out of the process.

The county is the compost producing entity around here and they want you to bag your leaves, leave them on the curb and they will pick them up. This way they get to examine all of the bags and remove all the inappropriate stuff before they turn them into compost. They didn't use to be so picky, but they are now, so I am hoping that translates into better compost with less stuff in the landfill.