Thursday, June 5, 2014

Are Your Composting Materials Safe?

Are you composting materials safe?
Don't just throw any ol' thing into your compost heap.  Here's what to watch out for....

Originally posted 10-10-11

Certified Organic OMRI Listed Fertilizer
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Safe composting materials
Digger's looking for composting materials....

Careful About Materials You Add To Your Compost Pile

You may be like us and are gathering up materials for your compost heap and mulch for winter plant protection.  Did you know that herbicides used on turf grass, hay fields, and other common compost/mulching materials can retain pesticide/herbicide residues that can harm your plants and trees?

And these herbicides can be found in horse and cow manures, too.  As if we didn't have enough to worry about these days....

Some Herbicides Don't Break Down

There has been a serious problem for gardeners since 1999 with herbicides  that don't break down during the composting process.  These herbicides, used to kill weeds in hay and grass can be deposited onto your garden soil and lawns, causing damage to plants, trees and vegetables.

The active ingredients, proved to not cause harm to animals but not proven safe for plants, include:
  • Clopyralid
  • Aninopyralid,
  • Aminocyclopyrachlor 
The last one is the active ingredient in the brand-name herbicide Imprelis and is attracting attention.
The above herbicides are in the pyridine family which kill plants by altering plant hormone levels.  The reason they do not harm animals is that plants have different hormones than animals and it's safe for the animals to ingest it.

But, what about the manure from these animals?  And what about using the treated grass clippings, hay and straw in our gardens and compost piles?

The problem is that these herbicides is, because they remain in the environment for long periods of time , they are causing problems with plants that we all want to keep alive, like our tomato plants, for crying out loud.

The bottom line:  Be careful where your compost materials come from.  You may inadvertently cause damage or kill your plants, trees and vegetables.

Steps Organic Gardeners Can Take

  1. Compost your own materials. 
    Only bring in composting materials from sources that you know what maintenance practices are used.
  2. Know your composting sources. 
    If you use a commercial composting, find out if they accept municipal organic waste material.  And, if they do, is it tested for herbicide residue.
  3. Be an activist. 
    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is so named because it is supposed to, get this,  "protect the environment".  Write them and let them know you want protection from harmful herbicide residues.  Herbicides need to be tested for potential harmfulness to plants before approval.  Contact manufacturers of herbicides that you want herbicides thoroughly tested before they are put on the market, and not just for animal safety.

Use Only Organic Composting Materials

The only real way to prevent these products from getting into the environment is to not use them in the first place.  Avoid using herbicides yourself and don't import compost materials onto your property from outside sources who do.

Certified Organic:

OMRI Listed worm castings and liquid fertilizers
Pure Black Castings™:  Certified Organic Worm Castings created using only organic materials.

VermaMax®:  Chicken Litter organically composted using VermaPlex®.

VermaPlex®:  Created from Certified Organic Pure Black Castings™.  Innoculate your garden soil and your compost heap.

Organic Fertilizer Information: Find use/application guides and Monroe Works.

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