Do You Know What's In Your Compost?

Do You Know What’s In Your Compost?

I know you’re already an actively engaged consumer and doing what you can to make sure you’re buying the best stuff at the best value for your home and garden. Still, some packaging can be a little tricky especially if you don’t have a degree in horticulture. You may think you’re buying the right product or that you know what’s in your compost, but some of those fancy words on the label that sound good may be accidentally exposing you to contaminants. 

Not to worry! Below is a list of common labels and phrases on compost and what they mean.

Reading Labels


Marketers are great at making crap sound good–in this case that’s literally what they did. Biosolids is just a fancy way of saying “human poop.” It is the sewage that is cleaned and processed from city waste plants and put in compost and amendments. Many landscapers swear by it, and truth be told it does make things green. However, as with any human waste there is a risk of contamination from metals, medications, and more. So only use it on turf and ornamental areas and keep it far away from your edibles.
P.S. did you know that Washington just legalized the use of human bodies as compost! Say hello to haunted tomatoes. I talk more about it on this blog post.

All Natural

All natural simply means they used natural ingredients, like vegetable scraps. However, many people confuse all natural as meaning organic or safe for edibles. All Natural is not organic, so be cautious about using it in the edible garden. Make sure it says its safe for edibles and if you are an organic gardener, opt for organic compost instead.

Made with Organic Ingredients

This is another tricky one that leads you to believe that it is organic. It simply means that some of the ingredients are organic but the product itself is not because those organic ingredients have been mixed with other non-organic materials. Its like “healthier” does not mean “healthy” and “reduced sugar” doesn’t mean “sugar free.” So again use with caution.

STA Certified

This label means that the product has been tested to verify that what is on the label is in fact what’s in the bag. Specifically the nurtient content and percentages are verified. You can learn more about the testing process and purpose at the U.S. Composting Council website.

OMRI Listed

This means that all of the ingredients listed for a organic producted are verified as organic inputs. It is not the same as certifying a product as organic, but it is a reliable method of selecting organic products, especially for edible gardens.

In general, read the label, ask questions, and go to trusted sources. Local garden centers and suppliers are generally reliable. Especially use caution with any materials you plan to use on edibles. If it ends up on the soil or in the plant it will end up in your system.
If you have any questions about this please feel free to reach out.

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