ORIGINS OF THE TERM
This term originates from late Middle English: from Old French composte, from Latin composita, compositum ‘something put together,’ feminine and neuter past participle of componere.
BEFORE YOU CHOOSE…
Not all composts are equal. Specific practices are in order to create a high quality of product. Since there are not any restrictions on production, practically anything can be put in a bag labeled compost. If the material does not go through a needed thermophilic process, then pathogens and weed seeds will not be killed. To be sure of the quality of compost, make sure the manufacturer can provide a soil food web analysis of their compost (a view of the biology contained in their product). If they cannot, don’t put it in the landscape.
TYPES OF COMPOST
Vermi-compost (or Worm Castings)
A highly bacterial dominated compost that is produced from worms digesting the fungi and bacteria from decomposing produce and green and brown litter and depositing their poop on the surface of bedding. This is a fantastic soil inoculant and plant stimulant.
Fungal Dominant Compost
One of the best ways to add humus, organic material, and beneficial microbes to our clay soils. This can be used to top dress turfs, shrub beds, and tree wells. The first stage of the composting process kills the majority of the weed seeds and pathogens from natural occurring high temperatures.
This media is a fungal dominated, slowly decomposed leaf litter. This is not just loose leaves; the long composting process has already been done for you. This compost is rich in beneficial microbes and fungal spores and hyphae. It is best used on lawns, tree beds, vegetable gardens, annuals, and in flower beds.
Mushroom Compost – SMS or Spent Mushroom Substrate
This material is not “real” compost. Quality varies greatly. Made from wheat straw, dried blood, gypsum, lime or crushed limestone, poultry litter, cow or horse manure and bedding, hay, corncobs, cottonseed hulls, cocoa bean hulls, clay, peat moss. It is partially composted for a few weeks and then steam pasteurized, which kills of all of the beneficial microbes. Material is then loaded with NaCl (table salt) and/or pesticides to ensure only the desired species of mushroom will live and grow. When the nutrient level drops too low to grow anymore spores, fresh substrate is replaced and the spent substrate is bagged and sold.