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Understanding Organic Compost

Walk into any supermarket and you will be bombarded by products claiming to be ‘organic’. From breakfast cereals to cleaning products, rump steak to bananas, we are experiencing somewhat of an organic boom.

But how does one know if the product is actually organic?

What does organic even mean?

Many consumers are unaware of the guidelines surrounding the use of the term organic, and nearly everyone is confused when it comes to what constitutes organic.

The best way to tell if a product is organic is to look for a well-known accreditation stamp on the label. There are six certification authorities in Australia such as NASAA and Australian Certified Organic, and products sold in this country must be certified by one of these organisations in order to use the term ‘certified organic’ on their packaging.

In simple terms, a product sold in Australia that simply has the word ‘organic’ in the title does not need to be certified organic, and therefore, will not necessarily contain sustainably sourced ingredients or be manufactured in an environmentally responsible fashion.

However, if a product claims to be “certified organic” it must be certified with one of the six certification authorities. In fact, it is illegal to make this claim without backing it up.

Below are the logos of the six certification authorities in Australia.

So, now that you know how to identify a certified organic product, what does the term ‘organic’ actually mean?

To adequately answer that, I would need to write a novel, so let’s look specifically at compost and potting mix, bearing in mind that potting mix is a type of compost.

Much of what goes into compost is organic in nature. Raw materials such as pine bark, coir fibre and some green waste are, in their raw state, perfectly suitable for use in organic products.

However that’s not enough for the finished product to be classed as organic.

If a natural product is processed using chemicals or synthetic fertilisers, it is no longer organic, regardless of where or how it was sourced.

Many standard potting mixes on the market consist of mainly composted pine bark. In order to compost the pine bark, synthetic fertilisers are added at the beginning of the composting process.

With organic composts or potting mixes, these fertilisers are not allowed to be used; therefore the composting process takes longer and happens a little differently with organic mixes.

The general principle is that a product must be sustainably sourced and must not contain things like synthetic fertilisers or other chemicals if it is to be sold as a certified organic product.

Controlled release fertilisers are common in general potting mixes, but again, unless they are certified organic, and very few are, they cannot be used in organic products. This means on-going feeding is more important with organic mixes than with standard mixes. There are many good off-the-shelf fertilisers and plant foods that are certified organic, but very few that are designed for commercial use. However, with the increasing popularity of organic products, this is expected to change quite quickly.

The use of many herbicides and pesticides are also restricted when growing organic produce. Using a certified organic product guarantees that these chemicals were not used in the process of manufacturing or growing your material.

Why use certified organic compost or potting mix?

Plants absorb nutrients from the soil in order to grow. If your soil contains elements that are not natural, either from the growing media or from fertilisers, then the plant will be made up of these nutrients and will therefore not be classed as organic. Increasingly, people are more aware of this and are choosing environmentally responsible products to use in their gardens, home, and also their businesses. In fact, there are many organic nurseries and food producers popping up all over Australia.

In summary, if you wish to purchase an organic product, always look for the words “certified organic” and check the label for the logo of the certifying body, as well as the certification number for that particular product which will be written under the organic certifier’s logo.

If you are looking for an organic certified compost or potting mix, call Australian Growing Solutions and find out more about their Commercial Organic Mix.

Suitable for use as both compost and a potting mix, Commercial Organic Mix is perfect for anyone looking to grow organic produce or needing a soil improver to add life back into poor soils. Not only is this mix certified organic, but it is produced to the same high quality as commercial grade mixes supplied to many of the best growers around Australia, meaning you will get healthier plants, more fruit and you will require less fertiliser.

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