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[greenyes] Re: 'dirt' question
Dear Tommy:

I  recently completed a report on compost and encountered a good deal of
debate on the question you asked.  I want to try and answer your question,
but I also suggest going to my source, a great short
publication from the Virginia Cooperative Extension called "Compost: What Is
It and What's It to You"  by A.H. Christian and G.K. Evanylo, Extension
Specialists, Department of Crop & Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia
Tech; R. Green, Office of Solid Waste, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;
Organics Recycling and Composting Committee (ORCC) of the Virginia Recycling
Association (VRA).

In addition to soil and manure, this publication also makes distinctions
regarding peat, mulch and chemical fertilizer.

Let me start with the easy one- top soil.   Soil is the uppermost layer of
the earth. Soils are composed of various proportions of sand, silt, clay and
small amounts of organic matter.  Top soil is definitely not 'Potting Soil'
or 'Composted manure'

'Potting Soil' and 'Composted manure' are different conceptually, but as
there are no universally accepted standards what it truly is depends on its
maker.  If you are of mind to make a purchase its a good idea to ask around
and see if anyone else has experienced the stuff.

Honest to god potting soil is a mix of mature compost and soil.  It can be
prepared in variety of ways and customized to its application.

Composted manure in part describes the source: animal waste often mixed with
bedding or sludge, in its raw form containing nutrients, weed seeds, and
potential disease organisms. Raw or partially processed manure is not stable
and can release nutrients (e.g. nitrogen, phosphorus) at less predictable
rates than truly stable compost.  If its been properly composted, the weed
seeds and pathogens will have been neutralized. How stable the product is at
your local Menards depends on how it was processed and how long allowed to

Mature Compost is a stable humus material created by combining organic
wastes (e.g. yard trimmings, food wastes, manures) in proper ratios into
piles, rows, or vessels; controlling temperature, moisture and oxygen to
achieve accelerated decomposition; and adding bulking agents (e.g. wood
chips), as necessary, to provide air space; allowing the finished material
to fully stabilize and mature through a curing period: a process that takes
2 to 6 months after which it can be beneficially used,  not overheating or
producing unpleasant odors.

I hope this does justice to your question and the subject; I will be curious
to see how others respond to your inquiry.  While I have known of compost
for years I have recently had the opportunity get down and dirty and study
it in depth.

I am humbled by how simple, complex and truly magnificent the stuff is.

Good luck with your garden!

Maurice M. Sampson II
129 West Gorgas Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19119-2508
W - (215) 569 9694
Cell:(267 269 6912
email: msampson@no.address
Fax: (215) 569 9637

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