US Composting Council’s 2013 'Million Tomato Compost Campaign'

HEALTHY SOIL = HEALTHY FOOD = HEALTHY PEOPLE

Harvest Time!

We announced the launch of the Million Tomato Compost Campaign back in April: The US Composting Council (USCC) announced the launch of a nationwide campaign to boost the soil health and growing power of community gardens across the country – just by adding compost to the soil. Since then, the USCC has spearheaded the donation of over 39,000 cubic feet of compost by manufacturers that participate in the USCC’s ‘Seal of Testing Assurance’ Program (STA) through the Million Tomato Compost Campaign. The purpose is to bring together compost manufacturers, chefs, community gardens and food pantries to help build healthy soil that produces sustainably grown, local food for the nation’s communities.

See a campaign clip on Good Morning America by clicking here.

The USCC formally concluded the Million Tomato Compost Campaign on Oct. 29. The campaign was a great success with almost 78,000 cubic feet of compost being delivered to community gardens all over the US. We estimate that over 1.2 million tomatoes have been grown during this campaign! Please click here to read the full campaign wrap-up press release.

Consumers

Compost has a place in your garden, your lawn, your flower beds and just about any place around your home where there’s soil in need of improvement and plants in need of a healthy, stimulating growing environment. You’ll find information on this page, and contained in this website that will teach you;

  • How to use compost in a variety of applications
  • What to look for when buying compost
  • Where to buy compost
  • How much compost to buy, and much, much more
Looking to learn even more?

Please click on the Prosumer link for more technical information about compost and its many applications.

Looking to buy compost or mulch?

You’ll need to know 3 things–how to use it, how much you need, and where to find it.
1
Compost use Guidelines

Our popular Field Guide to Compost Use lists 13 different types of applications, from Planting Beds to Reclaiming Marginal Lands. Each use provides instructions and quality parameters.  View Field Guide

2
Compost/Mulch Calculator

Use this calculator to figure out how much you need. Simply enter the approximate dimensions of the area you need to cover and the depth you want cover it in, and it will calculate the number of cubic yards or cubic meters. Open Calculator

3
Composter locator

Once know what you are looking for and how much you need, you can use this map to find a composting facility near you! Map of Composter Members

The US Composting Council is launching its Consumer Compost Use Program!

What is the Consumer Compost Use Program?

The Consumer Compost Use Program will clearly identify the types of uses that a compost product will be good for.
Those uses are:
Each compost use classification is represented by easily interpreted icons that reflect the compost’s use (or uses). Only compost producers in the Seal of Testing Assurance program can use these symbols, as they are tied to the STA analytical data. These icons are expected to become part of STA compost producers’ literature, websites and packaging, and will also be available as rack cards in garden centers and nurseries.

About the Consumer Compost Use Program

The Consumer Compost Use Program takes the USCC’s STA Program to the next level, and to the retail consumer, in an easy-to-understand format. The USCC created and has managed the Seal of Testing Assurance Program (STA) since 2000. The STA Program is a compost testing, labeling and information disclosure program whereby compost producers must test their compost anywhere from quarterly to monthly, based on production tonnage. The compost test suite, arrived at through a consensus process that included the leading compost research scientists and industry experts from across the US, includes chemical, physical and biological compost tests. It also includes EPA testing for health and safety standards (pathogens and metals). The results, along with feedstock information and specific compost use directions, are required to be disseminated to all prospects and customers.The STA Program has achieved a high level of success among professional users such as: Departments of Transportation (several specify STA compost ONLY for their landscape projects), landscape architects, landscapers, soil suppliers and others. The STA data, however, is just that; data available for interpretation by professional users. It is not a program designed for the retail consumer.

Compost can be purchased at landscape supply centers, nurseries and building supply centers in bulk or packages around the country. The use of STA compost will help consumers confidently achieve 5% organic matter efficiently and cost effectively by using compost, produced from locally recycled organic residuals.

Program Contact

Al Rattie
Market Development & STA Program Manager
US Composting Council
Phone: 215.258.5259
Fax: 301.530.5072
Al.Rattie@compostingcouncil.org

Establishment:

Compost should be uniformly applied over the entire area at an average depth of 1-2 inches and then incorporated to a depth of 6-8 inches using a rotary tiller or other similar equipment. Higher application rates of compost may be used if the compost is incorporated to a greater depth Rake the soil surface smooth prior to seeding, planting or sodding.Always seed, plant or sod during the recommended period of time in your region. The soil surface should be free of large clods, roots, stones, and other material that will interfere with planting and maintenance. The amended area should be watered thoroughly after seeding, sodding or planting.

Maintenance:

Annual topdressing with a finer grade compost (1/4″ – 3/8″ screened) is a good maintenance practice on both cool and warm season lawns. This can be done before or after core aeration to reduce compaction and improve moisture holding capacity. Drag or rake compost into the aeration holes. Cool season lawns can be compost topdressed in the early spring or fall. It’s best to apply compost to warm season lawns in the spring just prior to the active growing season. The area should be watered thoroughly after any seeding. Note: The nutrients contained in compost should be considered when applying fertilization. They will typically offset plant nutrient requirements, thereby potentially reducing fertilizer application rates.

Establishment:

Excavate a planting hole slightly shallower and 2 to 3 times the width of the root ball or container. Set the root ball on firm soil so that the top of the root ball sits slightly higher than the final grade. Uniformly blend compost with the excavated soil at one (1) part by volume compost to 2-3 parts by volume soil. Compost with higher amounts of salts and nutrients should be used at lower rates (e.g. 1:3 or 1:4 parts compost to soil). Backfill and firm the soil blend around the root ball within the planting hole. Always water thoroughly after planting. It should be noted that whenever possible, trees and shrubs should be planted in a mass planting bed, where multiple plants are established in a larger amended bed. This technique allows for greater planting success.

Lower compost application rates should be used for salt sensitive crops (e.g., conifers), or where composts possessing higher salt and nutrient levels are used, while higher application rates may be used for plants that require greater amounts of fertility.

Maintenance:

Apply a coarser compost mulch (1″ – 2″ screened) over the garden bed to conserve moisture, for weed suppression and/or for aesthetic purposes. Note: The nutrients contained in compost should be considered when applying fertilization. They will typically offset plant nutrient requirements, thereby potentially reducing fertilizer application rates.

Establishment:

Compost should be uniformly applied over the entire area at an average depth of 1-2 inches and then incorporated to a depth of 6-8 inches using a rotary tiller or other similar equipment. Higher application rates of compost may be used if the compost is incorporated to a greater depth. Rake the soil surface smooth prior to seeding or planting. The soil surface should be free of large clods, roots, stones, and other material that will interfere with planting. The amended area should be watered thoroughly after planting.

Lower compost application rates may be necessary for salt sensitive crops (e.g., strawberries), or where composts possessing higher salt and nutrient levels are used, while higher application rates may be used for plants that require greater amounts of fertility (e.g., tomatoes).

Maintenance:

Apply a coarser compost mulch (1″ – 2″ screened) over the garden bed to conserve moisture, for weed suppression and/or for aesthetic purposes. Note:The nutrients contained in compost should be considered when applying fertilization. They will typically offset plant nutrient requirements, thereby potentially reducing fertilizer application rates.

Prosumers

You understand the value and need for organic matter in soil. Locally produced compost is your most economical and best source of this organic matter. Compost has a place in almost every phase of your landscape project, including:

  • general soil amending
  • soil blending component
  • erosion control applications
  • backfill mixes
  • turf topdress
  • mulching….and more!
Currently accepted compost benefits include:
  • Improves soil structure and porosity – creating a better plant root environment
  • Improves the moisture holding capacity of light soils – reducing water loss and nutrient leaching, and improving moisture retention
  • Supplies organic matter
  • Supplies beneficial microorganisms to soils and growing media
  • Allows plants to more effectively utilize nutrients, while reducing nutrient loss by leaching
  • Increases moisture infiltration and permeability, and reduces bulk density of heavy soils – improving moisture infiltration rates and reducing erosion and runoff
  • Improves the cation exchange capacity (CEC) of soils
  • Aids the proliferation of soil microbes
  • Encourages vigorous root growth
  • Contains humus – assisting in soil aggregation and making nutrients more available for plant uptake
  • Buffers soil pH

 

USCC articles from the IECA publication Environmental Connection

Setting the Standard for Compost Use By Rodney Tyler and Al Rattie

Why Compost is Suddenly Green By Rodney Tyler

 

TOP STORY: Creating Curb Appeal

TOP STORY: Creating Curb Appeal

 

US Green Building Council Recommends Compost!

 

Upcoming events of interest to USCC members:

Please check back for future events!

Looking to buy compost or mulch?

You’ll need to know 3 things–how to use it, how much you need, and where to find it.
1
Compost use Guidelines

Our popular Field Guide to Compost Use lists 13 different types of applications, from Planting Beds to Reclaiming Marginal Lands. Each use provides instructions and quality parameters.  View Field Guide

2
Compost/Mulch Calculator

Use this calculator to figure out how much you need. Simply enter the approximate dimensions of the area you need to cover and the depth you want cover it in, and it will calculate the number of cubic yards or cubic meters. Open Calculator

3
Composter locator

Once know what you are looking for and how much you need, you can use this map to find a composting facility near you! Map of Composter Members

Strive for 5% – 5 Points to Ponder

The US Composting Council launched a ‘Strive for 5%’ organic matter campaign in late 2011, in conjunction with the introduction of the Consumer Compost Use Program. This informational program is designed to reinforce the idea promoted for many years by gardening experts that soils should contain at least 5% organic matter. We believe that the most cost efficient, effective and environmentally sound way to maintain or increase this level is with STA compost!

The ‘Strive for 5%’ campaign uses nationally recognized and accepted benefits of compost use (American Association of Plant Food Control Officials [AAPFCO] final bulk compost rules 2010) as the foundation for compost benefits claims. These include:

Compost improves soil structure and porosity – Compost physically loosens soil and helps create a better plant root environment. Plants are only as healthy as their root systems allow them to be!
Compost increases moisture infiltration and permeability; reducing bulk density in heavy soils while also improving the moisture holding capacity of light soils – Water is a precious and limited resource. Improving moisture infiltration rates, reducing erosion and runoff, reducing water loss and nutrient leaching, and improving moisture retention are all derived from compost use.

Compost supplies organic matter – Organic matter serves as a reservoir of nutrients and water in the soil, aids in reducing compaction and surface crusting, and increases water infiltration into the soil. Organic matter is necessary for ongoing soil health, and serves as a fast-acting nutrient supply, while also working in a time-release manner. In effect, while plants feed off of active materials, the more stable materials are gradually converting into usable nutrients. In addition, the stable decomposing forms quickly absorb available soil nutrients for plant use. (University of Minnesota Extension). Compost supplies lots of organic matter!

Here are some useful links and sources for more extensive facts on the benefits of organic matter and compost:

Compost allows plants to more effectively utilize nutrients, while reducing nutrient loss by leaching – Chemical fertilizers are expensive and becoming restricted in many parts of the US due to environmental concerns over Nitrogen and Phosphorus pollution. Compost allows the consumer to use less, and to make their use much more effective. Most compost is also a source of slow release nutrients, which do not pose the same environmental concerns as fast release, soluble nutrients.

Compost supplies beneficial microorganisms to soils – Compost is a living product. Healthy soil is a living material, ideally filled with beneficial microorganisms. As small as they are, soil microorganisms are the real giants in your garden, and your garden soil should be swarming with millions of these microorganisms. This “living-soil-life” helps; keep your soil healthy, decompose organic matter, replenish soil nutrients, form humus, promote root growth, increase nutrient uptake, and breakdown herbicides and pesticides. These microorganisms include bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa. Good quality compost provides this source of life!

Compost can be purchased at landscape supply centers, nurseries and building supply centers around the country in either bulk or packages. REMEMBER: Consider bulk buying wherever possible. Most compost is sold in 1 cu. ft. bags. It takes 27 bags to = 1 cubic yard. Do the math and make a wise buying decision!

The use of STA compost will help you confidently achieve 5% organic matter efficiently and cost effectively by using compost, produced from locally recycled organic residuals.

If it isn't STA compost what is it?

The question posed above may, at first glance, appear to be a bit silly. However, if you are seriously thinking about making compost, specifying compost or purchasing compost, you want to know exactly what you are purchasing? The US Composting Council’s Seal of Testing Assurance Program (‘STA’) is a compost testing, labeling and information disclosure program designed to give you the information you need to get the maximum benefit from the use of compost.

The program was created in 2000 and is the consensus of many of the leading compost research scientists in the United States. There was no other compost testing program available to compost producers or compost buyers that give you this type of information.

The science behind the development of the STA Program and the various tests that are used is contained in ‘Test Methods for the Examination of Composting & Compost’ (‘TMECC’). This publication includes a suite of physical, chemical and biological tests. These were selected to help both compost producer and purchaser to determine if the compost they are considering is suitable for the use that they are planning, and to help them compare various compost products using a testing program that can be performed by a group of independent, certified labs across the country and in Canada.

The information contained in this area of the USCC website will provide you with a thorough explanation of all of the ‘what’s and why’s’ of the STA Program and will help you get started in enrolling your compost product.

  Related Downloads
State Department of Transportation STA landscape specifications.
Please check with the specific DOT for the most current specification as these may be revised slightly with time. Some states have multiple STA specifications for different compost applications.

Partner Links

a3American Community Gardening Association

www.communitygarden.org

 

American Public Gardens Association

www.publicgardens.org/

 

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Ample Harvest

www.ampleharvest.org

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Chefs Collaborative

www.chefscollaborative.org

 

KAB_wordmark_OUT_redKeep America Beautiful, Inc.

www.kab.org

 

Nation Gardening Association

www.garden.org

Sponsors

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GrowNYC is a hands-on non-profit which improves New York City’s quality of life through environmental programs that transform communities block by block and empower all New Yorkers to secure a clean and healthy environment for future generations.