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thoughts on compost from town recycling center  RSS feed

 
Brendan Sullivan
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I'd like to use the free compost from my town recycling center.

The compost is made from yard debris left by residents.

Should I be concerned about residual lawn chemicals from yard debris brought in by residents who are not organic?

I'll be using it to top dress my lawn.

Thoughts on using free town compost?  My town has mountains of it. 

Thanks!

 
Charli Wilson
Posts: 310
Location: Derbyshire, UK
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I think that it depends on the area you live in (that the yard debris is collected from). I have no qualms about using the municipal compost here- the area it is collected from isn't the kind of area to use pesticides or anything (not because they want to be organic, but because no one wants to garden- if they did they'd have a compost heap). I'm likely to find crisps packets and beer cans in the compost, but not herbicides.

It would be different if compost materials came from large gardens where people hire lawncare companies to look after it.
 
Brendan Sullivan
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most residents in my town use a "Scotts" program or hire a company to fertilize lawn (e.g. tru-green).

Town only accepts grass clipping from residents (not commercial lawn care guys).

Compost is made up of grass clippings, leaves (amazing how many people collect leaves and drive to recycle center), ground up brush, etc.

Thanks for your ideas / thoughts!
 
Kate Muller
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Location: New Hampshire
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We used some of our town transfer station compost this year.  The first batch we picked up in the early spring was pretty good. 
I did a germination test with beans and pea seeds to check for persistent herbicides.  I planted a 2 planters each with a half peas and half bean seeds. 
One planter had a potting mix with the town's compost and the other with my favorite potting mix that I had been using for years. 
Both sprouted and grew nice seedlings.  I waited till the seedlings grew about 8" tall to see if there was any distortion in the leaves or stunted growth.

The second batch we got from the town was full of weed seeds and low in nutrients.   While I didn't see any signs of residual herbicides it wasn't very good compost. 

We have since switched to getting free wood chips from the town which are easier to move and we are mulching everything everything with them.

 
Marco Banks
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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When in doubt, compost the compost.

That is, take their compost, mix it with your own greens and browns, and let it continue to cook down for a couple of months.  The vast majority of commonly sold garden chemicals degrade rapidly when exposed to heat, sunlight and bacteria.  geoff lawton talks (somewhere) about the ability of fungi to "lock up" and render inert harmful chemical compounds.

If it has already been composting for some time, and if you set it aside for a season while you reheat it with fresh greens, it's doubtful that anything harmful will linger.  I would mix a couple of 5 gallon pails of coffee grounds and a couple of bags of grass clippings into it --- that'll heat it up in a hurry.  Turn it every 3 or 4 days for 2 weeks, then let it sit for a couple of months . . . there you be.
 
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