A local farm dumps manure/bedding in a field all winter long. In the spring there appears a sign "Free Compost". Don't be fooled. It may be free but it is not compost. Compost is organic matter that has been mixed to the correct carbon: nitrogen ratios received oxygen to encourage the movement of aerobic microbes. This movement creates heat which when over 131 degrees will kill pathogens and weed seeds. A big pile of manure/bedding would have to have temperature monitored over at least 15 days and turned at least 5 times to destroy weed seeds and pathogens. Yes, there are many people that do like to add aged manure to their gardens, as long as you understand the difference.
To buy good quality compost ask these questions;
What are the feedstocks? Popular feedstocks are yard wastes, food wastes, manure/bedding & other agricultural wastes, industrial wastes from lumber, paper and breweries, and biosolids. Some common contaminants of these feedstocks are persistent herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, road salts and other roadway chemicals, heavy metals, and garbage. Look for compost that doesn’t have these contaminants. Devine Gardens compost is made from on-farm sustainably raised animals and mixed with a mulchy/sawdust mixture bought from the local lumber mill to create the correct C:N ratio and bulk density. There are no contaminants in Devine Gardens compost. It is approved for use in certified organic production.
What method is used to actively compost the feedstock? Are the materials reaching at least 131 degrees for at least 3 days for an aerated pile and at least 15 days for a static pile with the material being turned at least 5 times? Word of caution: If the pile goes above 165 degrees a lot of the microorganisms die off making the compost less valuable at fighting disease. Devine Gardens compost is actively composted in 4 poured concrete aerated bays holding 25 yards each. Temperatures are monitored to make sure they are above 131 degrees for at least 3 days and also that they don’t get too hot.
Is the compost allowed time to stabilize and mature? Devine Gardens compost is allowed to mature and become stable at least 6 months.
How is the compost stored? Compost should be stored under cover so that the nutrients don’t leach away and that weed seeds don’t settle onto it. Devine Gardens compost is not exposed to the weather. It is currently stored in compost bays and truck bodies.
What information is on the bag? The label should offer important information such as feedstock, basic nutrients, C:N ratio, pH, soluble salts, directions and contact information.
What does the compost look and smell like? Quality compost should have a pleasant earthy smell, be dark brown to black and have a loose texture. It should not smell bad or be yucky and be mucky to the touch.
Test it. Plant a few bean seeds in the compost. If the compost is mature the beans should develop and grow without a problem.