Gardening News

Looking for Quality Compost? Look for These Icons

How can the average homeowner tell if the compost they purchased is of any quality? How do they know if they can use it on their garden or landscape? How much should they use? Can they use it on flowers and vegetables? Will it work on the lawn and landscape?

The US Composting Council (USCC) has developed a Consumer Compost Use Program for the homeowner to use when purchasing compost. The program includes easy-to-recognize graphical icons that will help the homeowner identify quality compost products that can be applied to their specific gardening needs.

The Consumer Compost Use Program takes the USCC’s Seal of Testing Assurance Program (STA) to the next level for the retail consumer. The STA Program is a compost testing, labeling and information disclosure program that requires participating compost producers to test their compost anywhere from quarterly to monthly, based on their production rate. The testing includes chemical, physical and biological parameters for compost. It also includes EPA testing for health and safety standards (pathogens and metals). STA compost producers are required to provide this information to all end users. The USCC created and has managed the STA Program since 2000.

The new Consumer Compost Use Program will require compost producers that participate in the STA Program to link their testing data to three compost use classifications; lawns, trees and shrubs, and flower and vegetable gardens. A separate icon represents each compost classification and reflects the use (or uses) of the product. These icons are expected to become part of STA compost producers’ literature, websites and packaging, and will also be on Compost Use cards available in garden centers and nurseries.

The USCC also has a ‘Strive for 5%’ campaign. The campaign reinforces the fact that soils should have 5% organic matter. The use of STA compost will help consumers achieve 5% organic matter efficiently and cost effectively by using compost produced from locally recycled organic residuals. The compost can be purchased in bulk or package at landscape supply centers, nurseries and building supply centers around the country.

Visit the US Composting Council’s website ( for more information on the Consumer Compost Use Program, ‘Strive for 5%’, or for a list of STA compost producers and all other issues related to compost.


Frank Franciosi is a Horticulturalist and Manager of Nature’s GREEN-RELEAF ® Compost and has over 18 years experience in the composting industry in North Carolina. Frank is currently president of the US Composting Council.

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