A Lot of Rot

With Thanksgiving sales offered by nearly every one of the online gardening retailers I shop from, it was simply too hard not to give in to the siren song of “Discount”. Of course, I know now (having tested it successfully on myself countless times) that a “discount” is only something to lure you into purchasing considerably more quantities and items than you thought you needed.

This time I fell for a pile of rot – compost, to be specific. I have tried compost from various different sources – the city’s waste management company’s annual giveaway (funny story about that below), Clark’s U-Save Rockery in Hayward and from my neighborhood Lucky grocery. I have my own backyard composter as well; my homemade compost is still brewing in it. In descending order of quality, purely subjective – no nutrient tests were done, was the city compost, followed by Lucky’s and then Clark’s. The city compost felt ‘rich’, for lack of a better word, smelled earthy, was a deep brown color and composed of mostly smaller particles. Lucky’s was a mixed bag; they sold a limited quantity of their compost, made from produce that had exceeded salable shelf life. I bought several bags of this and used it generously in all my new plantings. Clark’s compost seemed to be mostly dried grass clippings, very light and airy, and they didn’t stuff their 1 cubic foot bags to capacity, so it felt like I wasn’t getting value for money.

I am saving the last bag of the city compost, limited to 2 bags per trash bill, for my roses. For this year’s giveaway, I collected trash bills from my not-too-enthusiastic-about-gardening friends and headed off to the giveaway bright and early, accompanied by my husband to do the heavy lifting. I was childishly excited – the prospect of getting anything for free, even if it is literally, waste, is thrilling! Throughout the trip I was subjected to jokes on how we would be one of a huge crowd of, say, five other crazies who’d come to collect this stuff. Anyway, feeling a little silly, we headed over, only to be greeted by long lines, five rows wide, with cops directing cars, detours to manage traffic, several personnel efficiently checking the bills and loading the compost! My husband was dumbfounded; I was vindicated. When I called back later to see if they had any leftover bags, they said all the compost had not only been taken, but some people had to go back empty-handed. Hah!

Back to the latest compost acquisition: this was from Peaceful Valley’s online store groworganic.com. Peaceful Valley is based in Grass Valley, California, about 150 miles north east of San Francisco, not quite close enough to make a quick weekend trip. They carry a lot of fertilizers labeled organic, which I like. For their 20% off Thanksgiving Sale, I ordered 3 bags of their own Peaceful Valley Compost and 2 bags of Malibu Compost Bu’s Blend Biodynamic Compost, which along with the usual ingredients also has an intriguing blend of “yarrow, chamomile, valerian, stinging nettle, dandelion, and oak bark”. I have no idea what role these play in compost; most of them sound like ingredients for herbal teas, so it cannot be all bad. However, priced at 4X that of the regular compost, I hope it does more than just soothe the plants. I will report on the results.

Have you found your go-to compost yet that feeds your garden without emptying your purse? Have you tried this herb-blended super-expensive compost? Do share, if you have.