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Compost may be the single most important ingredient in any gardening program. However, most gardeners don't understand the true value of quality compost and the benefits that can be obtained by adding it to soil. Garden-Ville has compiled the following frequently asked questions to help explain the importance of compost.

What is Compost?

Compost is partially decomposed organic matter. The raw material for compost can be from many sources: agricultural, industrial and household waste, as well as municipal biosolids.

Why Do We Compost?

As microorganisms decompose and digest the organic matter, a rich humus material is created. This process generates just the right amount of heat to eliminate weeds, insects, and pathogens. Composting also diverts waste from landfills, and creates an end product that improves soil quality.

How Does Compost Improve the Soil?

Using compost effectively increases the organic matter missing in many soils. Compost helps to aerate the soil, retain moisture, and moderate temperature. As beneficial soil organisms break down compost, they release nutrients into the soil that plants can easily absorb.

Which Compost Should I Use?

There are many fine composts available today, however, some products are nothing more than topsoil with a small amount of peat moss. The best kind of compost to use is one that you've made yourself in your own back yard - it's free and it provides a way to recycle organic waste from your household. If this is not available, Garden-Ville offers two high quality compost products. Garden-Ville has been producing compost since 1957 and continues to demonstrate a commitment to composting excellence through membership in the United States Composting Council and adherence to the standards required for its "Seal of Testing Assurance".

What are the Different Uses for Compost?

Compost is one of the most diverse gardening materials. It provides the organic material most soils are lacking. In flowerbeds, mix compost in with your existing soil at the package's recommended rates. For lawns, use compost as top-dressing. You can even add compost to your potted plants. Just remember to always follow the manufacturer's directions.

Can I Use Too Much Compost?

As with any product, you should always follow the recommendations on the product bag. When using compost as a top-dressing on your lawn, over application will result in the smothering of your grass. You should make sure the compost is raked in well enough to expose the grass blades. When using compost as an amendment to your soil, make sure the compost is thoroughly mixed. Not mixing the compost and soil will result in a shallow root system on plants.

How Can I Tell When Compost is Mature?

A common misconception is that all compost has an unattractive smell. Mature compost that has been properly decomposed will have an earthy or sweet aroma. If your compost smells sour, it has not completed the decomposition process. Mature compost will also be dark brown in color, have an even texture, and crumble in your fingers.

What Are Biosolids?

The term "biosolids" is not synonymous with "sewage sludge". Domestic sewage is received at a Wastewater treatment facility, where it undergoes extensive processing. The nutrient rich, organic material created as a byproduct of sewage treatment is collected and this material is the beginning of biosolids. The byproduct then undergoes further treatment and processing until it meets strict USEPA and TCEQ requirements. The finished product is high in nutrients that can be used to maintain soil quality and stimulate plant growth. A bulking agent such as wood chips can be added to treated biosolids, composted, and used in landscapes as a soil amendment.

What is the Difference Between Class A and Class B Biosolids?

Both classes meet federal and state requirements for land use. However, class A biosolids undergo a more rigorous treatment process. Class A biosolids can be sold to the general public whereas Class B biosolids cannot. In order for a biosolid to be rated class A the material must be free of all pathogens.

Can Biosolids be Harmful and Do They Have a Strong Odor?

Federal and state treatment requirements are in place to insure a safe end product. Properly treated biosolids that follow these requirements have been shown to pose no health risks. Composted biosolids do have their own distinct odor depending on the treatment method, but a quality biosolids compost will not smell any stronger than a similar manure based compost.