The Power of Compost

SPREAD COMPOST: The fall is a terrific time to spread compost – not COVID!  There are innumerable benefits that come with applying compost in what some people think of as the “wrong” season for doing so. One is that you likely won’t be competing with as many growers for that coveted supply of spring compost that has been selling out so quickly in recent years. Secondly, compost is a slow-release supplier of plant nutrients.  This means that the compost you put down in the spring may not actually be available to plants until after the start of the growing season when they really need it….hence – fall compost application!  

Harvesting worm castings.

Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm offers these additional reasons to apply compost in the fall: 

  • Getting full benefit from natural soil amendments can take weeks or even months. Compost you apply in the spring might not be fully activated until mid-summer. (See, told ya!😉) 
  • The soil in the spring stays muddy for quite a while. Dryer soil in the fall is easier to work. 
  • You will have tons of garden and yard work to do in the spring. Getting your soil partially ready in the fall frees you up for spring chores.

HOW MUCH TO ADD: This article found on Gardeners Supply website, suggests adding 3”-4” of compost to your garden beds after you’ve removed the season’s expired plants. 

Don’t forget your flower beds!  “Dig in some compost wherever you’ve pulled out annuals and whenever you’re planting bulbs. Pile on a good 2″ to 3″ layer around the base of established perennials and shrubs (keeping it back an inch or so from the stems).” 

SOIL HEALTH: Healthy soils take time, attention, and WORK.  Adding compost is work up front but makes soil less “needy” later in the season.  It’s recommended to add 2” of organic matter each year in order to foster healthy soils and reap both the benefits and the abundant harvest provided by living soil.  If you’d like a quick lesson on the definition of healthy soil, read this: Organic Garden Soil: Use Organic Compost +more | If you’d like a longer, more immersive soil health experience, consider participating in this webinar series beginning Oct. 7 presented by Dr. Elaine’s Soil Food Web School.

Kiss the Ground provides this graphic to show the power of healthy soil.

Healthy soils do not only benefit us by producing healthier more abundant crops.  Healthy soil makes up the skin of the Earth and provides essential benefits to humans and the environment. It allows soil to retain more moisture, reducing the need for watering as often during dry seasons. This also helps soil remain in place during large weather events helping to reduce erosion and chemical runoff into larger bodies of water. It provides natural fungicide and pesticide protection reducing the need to apply chemical fertilizers throughout the growing season. Additionally, it provides fertility to the soil allowing plants to grow bigger and stronger and grab carbon out of the atmosphere and process it into the carbon sink that is healthy soil. To find out more about all of the wonders of compost, review the Soil Builders: Education in Action program hosted by the Composting Association of Vermont.

GET STARTED: If you have yet to divert food scraps out of your household waste stream, there’s no time like the present.  In fact, since July 1, 2020 Vermont has required food scraps to be sorted out of your household trash.  While composting at home is the most efficient way to take care of those scraps not all Vermonters have that luxury.  But if you do and you are looking six reasons to start composting at home – check out this list published by TeraGainx, 6 Reasons to Start Composting.  

Your hauler needs to offer an option for managing your food scraps if you have waste and recycling picked up at your residence.  If you self-haul your materials to a drop-off facility, you should find a place to deposit your food scraps there, as well.  If you don’t – Ask! Food scraps are accepted at all LRSWMD Drop-off locations for a minimum of $1 per tip.   

GET SOME: Those food scraps that you deliver to LRSWMD drop-off locations get transported to Lamoille Soil and made into this amazing soil amendment.  If you’d like to take a virtual tour, click here.  Five gallon bucket refills will be available beginning TODAY, Oct.1 at the Johnson and Stowe Transfer Stations, and Oct. 2 at the Morrisville Drop-off site. Product available only while supplies last.

We are anxiously awaiting a few larger piles to pass the maturity test so we can have $50 bulk cubic yards to sell yet this fall.  Please check the website or call 635-9246 Friday – Sunday to know when sales will begin and how much finished compost is available. 

The Lamoille Soil Process

Piles reach up to 131 degrees in order to reduce pathogens and weed seeds.
Each batch of compost is screened before it is sold.
Our recipe is specifically cultivated to ensure a healthy diet for decomposition.

Bioassays at Lamoille Soil

Lamoille Soil Compost is marketed as being “Compost to Grow With,” and we wanted to put this to the test by conducting bioassays with our compost and topsoil. A bioassay is defined by the free dictionary online as a method of determining the concentration, activity, or effect of a change to a substance by testing its effect on a living organism and comparing this with the activity of an agreed standard. The purpose of conducting our bioassays at Lamoille Soil was to test the effect compost had on bean and lettuce plants, in comparison to topsoil.

The bean and lettuce plants were started from seed, and planted in different mixes of topsoil and compost. The planting mixes were: 50% compost, 100% compost, 25% compost, and 75% compost. Measurements of germination, number of leaves, and length of the plants were taken twice weekly in order to compare growth of the plants and the growth of the plants were tracked over 4 weeks.

            After four weeks of the plants growing, trends in the data were becoming evident. The plants grown in 25% compost and 75% topsoil displayed the highest number of leaves and longest stems (averaged between 6 plants). At Lamoille Soil, we recommend that our compost be applied to seedlings in a mix of 1/3 topsoil, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 compost. The findings of this bioassay prove our suggested ratios to be effective, as the mix containing 25% compost grew slightly larger leaves at a faster rate than the standard topsoil.    No plants were showing any sign of damage on their leaves or stunted growth, which was a great indicator that our compost is persistent herbicide free! The plants were then given out to our staff to finish growing in their summer gardens.

Compost Workshops Offered to Keep the ICAW Party Going!

While International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) concluded on May 8, we at the LRSWMD like to keep the celebration going all month long.   The ICAW theme this year was Grow, EAT….COMPOST….Repeat, recognizing the closed-loop system of the composting process. We emulate the theme by continuing the ICAW celebration by hosting two backyard composting workshops later this month. Attendance will be limited to 20 people so please register today at  

These workshops are free and are intended to benefit composters of all experience levels.  Different backyard options will be reviewed to determine which system will work best for your backyard. The simple science of how food scraps become compost will be discussed and the secret recipe for a successful pile will be revealed!  Trouble-shooting tips for problem piles will also be shared. See – something for composters of all ages! This Saturday’s workshop includes the BONUS activity of an optional tour of the Lamoille Soil Commercial Compost facility. 

The same workshop will be held at two different locations for the convenience of our District members. The first will be at 10:00am this Saturday, May 15 at the Lamoille Soil Composting Facility at 941 Wilson Road in Johnson. The second will be on Wednesday, May 26 at 5:45pm at the Stowe Transfer Station at 91 Dump Road. Again, attendance is limited and registration is required. Register today to create healthy soils and keep your food scraps out of the landfill and in compliance with Vermont’s Universal Recycling & Composting law. 

Backyard tips for all levels of composters at these free workshops!