Why the Rose Garden stinks

Rose Garden before the annuals came out and the compost went inUsually when people enter the Rose Garden they take a deep breath in through the nose and heave a big blissed-out sigh of appreciation …

Not today. The roses are still blooming; they are still sweetly fragrant, but the smell of the compost we started to spread yesterday is a little overwhelming. We decided to use Bristol’s own compost made from yard waste and … biosolids. If you’re not already familiar with the term, biosolids are the byproduct of sewage treatment. It’s nutrient rich and once it’s been thoroughly composted, pathogen-free. And pretty stinky.

Gail taking a sample of Bristol compostEarlier this week, Gail and I visited the Bristol compost facility – which helped to facilitate deciding between spending the moon on our favorite organic compost that has to be trucked from all the way across the state, and getting Blithewold’s truck filled with the free compost made less than 2 miles away from here. We have both used the rich, dark biosolids compost in our own gardens (because it’s free!) but had never gotten the full scoop, so to speak.

Compost onIt’s Class A, top grade compost made in a 20 year old facility (soon to be solar powered!) and is free to home gardeners who are able to pick it up themselves and sold to landscapers and garden centers all over the state. Sludge is trucked in from the sewage treatment plant, mixed with finely chopped yard waste, cooked for a minimum of 28 days and aerated by the most enormous rototiller on the planet (says me.) It’s tested for pathogens (fecal coliform) periodically throughout the cycle and the content is fully analyzed for heavy metal levels. Each batch must be within allowable limits – and 100% pathogen-free – before being released from the process. The people who make it are very proud of their product and seem to have good reason to be – plants love it.

Gail and the giant scented geraniumWe have been talking about amending the soil in the Rose Garden for years now. The soil is probably better than average, evident by the size and health of some of the plants in the garden, but has become more and more compacted and cement-like as we’ve all trampled it over the years. Some roses have struggled to thrive and it’s getting harder and harder, especially in a dry season, to water the garden well. I love thinking that this fall’s rain will really soak in right now rather than run off. And the unpleasant odor, which should dissipate within a few days, to me is a harbinger of next season’s sublime fragrance of a garden full of healthy plants. (Healthy soil = healthy plants.) We’ve taken so much – pleasure, plants and soil – from that garden over the years, it feels really good to finally give something back.

Have you given anything back to your garden yet? (Fall is the perfect time…) Have you ever tried compost made with biosolids? What do you think of it?

4 thoughts on “Why the Rose Garden stinks

  1. Mmm…bio solids. You can get it for free? I have to pay for it. It’s still a better deal than anything else around here. I sometimes wonder what all the hormones/anti-depressants/statins in the compost are doing for the plants. I don’t put it in the vegetable garden for these reasons.

    Susan, it’s funny – I was just wondering about the pharmaceuticals… We’re not going to use it on our veg bed either but I know lots of people who do. -kris

  2. The stinkier the compost, the better it is. You are so lucky to have forward-thinking people making it and keeping it free. I don’t think we recycle any sewage sludge here at all, and Sydney has four million plus people.

    Chookie, that’s a lot of sewage… Judging by how big the facility is for our tiny town, Sydney would need miles upon miles of windrows. I do feel lucky – I really had no idea Bristol was so progressive. (And I live here.) -kris

  3. You are lucky to have such a facility with all the testing etc. Free also. So, is the smell like sewage? Good with the bad, I guess. I have been adding compost to the beds. It is a never ending task here. It is a good workout especially when the tire on the wheelbarrow gets low. :)

    Layanee, The smell is kind of reminiscent of … barnyard. Slightly unpleasant but definitely not as foul as any kind of backed-up sewer sort of odor. And you’re right about the exercise. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten such a good workout – Gail called it “power gardening”. -kris

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