Is Cedar Grove composting good for me?

robinwise(8 PNW)May 8, 2007

Someone mentioend to me once (I can't remember who) that I should NEVER get CedarGrove composting? Anybody want to chime in?

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maro(z8 WA)

It seems to me . . that we liked Cedar Grove compost at one time, but we decided not to buy it any more. Whether we just didn't notice at first what we noticed later, I don't know.

I don't like: the big lumps that won't break apart, the numerous pieces of glass, the little pieces of blue or green or white plastic up to 1" x 1/2", bits of blue twisty ties or whatever, and so on.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 8:49PM
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drcindy(z8 WA)

I regularly use Cedar Grove, Whitney Farms, and Gardener's Bloom (I think that's what it's called) regularly and about equally. I've never had problems like what Maro has written about.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 10:46PM
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There's at least one distributor for Cedar Grove (the one I'm thinking of is in Kitsap County) that regularly substitutes their bad compost full of junk for Cedar Grove. (How they continue to get away with that is beyond me.) I've never heard of anyone having problems with Cedar Grove if they order it from them directly. I think it is great.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 12:33AM
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nwnatural(zone 8 PNW)

I've seen it full of those lumps that don't break apart. I also think Cedar Grove is heavy and kinda mucky. I think most city run compost facilities have some bits of debris, but not all that bad. I still think it's a good product to use, verses not using any compost at all.

I'm in Pierce County so I prefer Prep (the compost made by Pierce County dumps). It's fluffy, smells good, spreads well, and it's a whole bunch cheaper than Cedar Grove.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 6:32PM
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We've had cedar grove delivered to our house and have found quite a bit of glass, some very sharp. Quite a problem when you have kids. It also seemed to have a lot of weed seeds, because those areas have become full of weed seedlings as well.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 12:23AM
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I have used it a lot and have seen no debris in it - my local nursery did stop carrying it lately. When I asked why, the owner said it was "full of peoples throw away". I thought that was the entire point! Since I'm seeing your comments now, his comment is making more sense.

Now he is carrying a blended compost that appears to be 50% peat moss. I'd rather have just straight compost and do the mixing myself, thank you.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 11:55AM
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I had a bag of it given to me at a gardening fair. I found blue twisties and lots of big lumps that I couldn't break apart.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 10:38PM
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Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)

I buy it by the yard, directly from their plant. My soil is very sandy and I've been very happy with their compost. I've found the nonorganic "junk" to be minimal & would expect some in most any bulk compost. When you get people to quit throwing garbage in their yard waste, it will quit turning up in our compost.

I also buy their potting mix by the yard...waaaaay cheaper than say bagged MiracleGro potting mix. Depending on what I'm potting up, I modify it a little to suit my needs. Additives I currently blend in are Black Gold potting mix (high in peat moss), sometimes some MiracleGro potting mix, and perlite.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 1:33AM
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keithaxis(z4 Wash State)

I purchase from cedar grove each of the past 3 spring/summeres. I had 60 yards of two way delivered last year and used it for all the new beds for small shrubs, trees, 50 tomato plants, 50 pepper plants. The two way is their Compost 50% and Sand 50%, not too hot to use as actual planting material.
I have 15 yards coming this saturday, though the price went up to $580 for 15 yards delivered (outside the area) compared to $500 back in March...but I love the stuff and yes, there is occasionally some piece of glass, or the small blue plastic but we are talking very little as I have hauled all of this in wheel barrows and would notice as I have shovelled it all...

weeds seem to be almost non existant with Cedar Grove, at least what they deliver me...

K in Buckley

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 2:36PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I get chips from a tree service. I don't have to go get it, the price is right, and it works just fine. Weed free too.
Plus, I know what's in it.
I live close enough to Cedar Grove Compost that I can see it. They are doing a much better job of controlling the smell. I rarely smell it anymore. A couple of whiffs this spring is all. They are doing such a good job the compost is piling up more and more. From my vantage point it looks like they could lower the price a bit to get rid of the volume they have on hand. Over $500 for a truckload?!! I can buy delivered topsoil or quarry rock cheaper.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cedar Grove Compost.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 1:25PM
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My garden is filled with Cedar Grove materials - two-way, three-way top soils, compost, and dairy manure. Weeds have been negligible, glass is small but sharp (two years later I'm still picking up a piece here and there), haven't noticed any blue plastic or ties. I wouldn't go barefoot in this garden but I'm probably overcautious and the glass tends to catch the light, making it easy to remove. I like Cedar Grove over anything else I've purchased - it's fluffier, more microbes, plant success seems better (though I've not done anything approaching a scientific sample). The borders and beds are very fertile, beautiful, easy to work, and no big lumps at all. The inevitable "different batches" must be at work here.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 3:50PM
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Ratherbgardening(PNW 7 or 8)

I saw their bagged potting soil at Lowes yesterday. Is it a decent potting mix or does it hold water too long like some I've bought in the past? I couldn't see it through the bag to judge for myself.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 11:52AM
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nwnatural(zone 8 PNW)

It's a fine product. Plus, it's produced locally, meaning your reducing your carbon footprint when you buy products made close to home.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 12:20PM
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Ratherbgardening(PNW 7 or 8)

Thanks, I may give it a try.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 12:28PM
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I wanted to update this page as it has old information. Today in 2009, I find Cedar Grove compost is fantastic. I don't find pieces of plastic in it, as old posts complained. I did a comparison test with Gardner and Bloome's compost -- I found G&B has too much bark. Cedar Grove should be even better soon as Seattle is allowing food scraps in the yard recycling matter.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 3:49PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

>I get chips from a tree service. I don't have to go get it, the price is right, and it works just fineDing!

Here is a link that might be useful: Compost problems.pdf

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 12:10PM
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From their site:

Cedar Grove uses a state-of-the art, computer-controlled system that ensures the compost heats to temperatures hot enough to kill diseases and pests, and biodegrades any toxic chemicals that may be present. Cedar Grove takes organic material that would otherwise be mixed in with trash and shipped to landfills at great expense, and processes it through a state of the art composting system to produce a clean soil amendment....

Years of testing by certified laboratories have shown that pesticides are undetectable in in the finished Cedar Grove Compost. The naturally occurring microbes and heat generated during composting break down most toxic chemicals into safe compounds. In addition, the large volume of clean yard trimmings, food scraps and wood processed at Cedar Grove dilutes contaminants to safe levels that are well below regulatory standards set by the USEPA, Washington Department of Ecology and local Public Health Districts....

The naturally occurring microbes that make compost also break down steroids and hormones into simple, safe compounds; and the heat generated in the process kills pathogens like e-coli, salmonella. Cedar Grove Composting monitors the piles to make sure that temperatures are maintained at 150 F for at least 3 weeks in the composting processÂwell beyond regulatory requirements, and the finished compost is tested in accordance with state laws to demonstrate that disease causing pathogens are not present....

Cedar Grove tests all batches of compost for 14 metals prior to sale, to ensure compliance with Washington State regulations (for 9 metals plus other contaminants) and voluntary compliance with the US Composting Council Seal of Testing assurance program. Cedar Grove Compost is consistently well below the safe limits for metals set by Washington Department of Ecology and the USEPA. The USEPA standards are set to protect children who eat soil, and WDOEÂs standards are even more restrictive. A recent review of test results from the past four years showed that Mercury has not been detected at any level in Cedar Grove Compost during that period.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 11:06PM
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Dear digdig (aka CEO of Cedar Grove??) - Too bad the Cedar Grove composting process isn't hot enough to vaporize all of the plastic and glass bits...

It's a decent enough product IMO but I prefer not to use it in my vegetable beds any more because of this problem.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 2:02PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Does it still smell like sludge? Why would a "clean" product smell like municipal sewage whereas all other composts etc. encountered over 42 years of amateur and professional gardening not have this same odor?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 3:02PM
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Well, the wife wanted some compost in bulk for a garden project this weekend. 1 yard of Cedar Grove was her choice. Overall I'm okay with their product but I notice there is still has little bits of plastic in it. Not a lot, but just enough to be annoying... Yes it does smell, but the smell dissipates within a week or so. Smells more like compost than sewage. Also, the hard lumps weren't quite as prevalent this time.

Also, she used the soil thermometer on it. It went off the scale meaning it was well over 90F. Use with caution. perhaps spread it out if possible and get it to cool if you plan on spreading it deep (although most of our plants don't get more than 1-2" around the roots.)

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 1:49PM
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thane(z8 Bellevue, WA)

I bought a bunch of Cedar Grove compost in bags last year, and it must have had a lot of weed seeds, because the area where I spread it is suddenly the weediest I have ever seen.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 4:48PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

If it's still hot when you get it that means it's still fresh and in the process of composting.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 8:06PM
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To chime in, I was delighted to get a 2 yard minimum for a perennial bed I was enlarging several weeks ago. Cedar Grove now has dealers who deliver the product in bulk. I figure it costs about half what the bagged compost costs. But I had all the problems noted by others, unlike the bagged Cedar Grove I bought last fall as a winterizing measure. My solution has been to screen the compost into my big wheelbarrow. It took time but did reduce the amount of twigs and stones, which I then spread where I wanted them. Some bits of plastic and some twigs got through the mesh but not enough to fret about. And the clods were broken up. The smell dissipated within 24 hours, as I recall. I recently heard a speaker from the Bellevue Botanic Garden who swears by CG compost. Wood chips are good too but in a small yard I need a product I can work into the soil of my ornamental and vegetable beds. CG compost has really improved my yard in the past several years, as I can't generate enough compost on my own.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 1:25AM
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Cedar grove compost is awful. I bought about 8 yards 3-4 years ago and am still picking out glass and plastic. An email which I sent to them went unanswered. Members of the Northwest Perennial Society also agree that the compost, which is quite expensive, is unacceptable. I would never, ever, buy it again!!!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 9:04PM
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"Unacceptable" how? Because it contains a few shreds of plastic or shards of glass? While perhaps inconvenient and a mild nuisance, that doesn't affect the overall quality of the compost, which currently is very good. This hasn't always been the case but the company has made some major improvements in its production methods and the quality of the finished product is now rated quite highly. It is routinely tested for heavy metals, contaminates and pathogens and provides a wide range of nutrients common to any well-prepared compost.

Since it is prepared primarily from recycled residential yard waste, the ultimate 'purity' of the finished product is really up to us as homeowners. There is a good reason why one is instructed to keep plastic or other noncompostible items out of the recycle bins but many folks are too lazy or irresponsible to comply. There is a screening/sorting process that is undertaken but with the volume of raw material that is processed on a daily basis, it would be virtually impossible to keep all the junk out entirely.

For all those naysayers, I'd suggest a tour of the processing facility. It IS state of the art as far as commercial composting operations are concerned and the high temperatures necessary to kill off most weed seeds and pathogens are adequately achieved and maintained and the product properly 'finished'. I've used it numerous times in client applications as well as personally and I find no issues with stuff. It is no worse and often better than any other local commercially prepared compost. If you want something purer, make your own so you will have complete control over any raw ingredients. But most home composters are not able to achieve the thoroughness of the end product and fall far short of the quality of Cedar Grove.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 11:02AM
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grrrnthumb(z8 WA)

I think all that really matters is does it work or not, and for us it sure did. 10 yards, used as a topdressing, transformed our yard and garden at our last house. It was most responsible for turning our dry, poorly-growing yard into a NW paradise in one year. The plants lept up so much in that first year that it seemed like we had found a super fertilizer. Dry mulches are great at preventing weeds, but they won't make such big difference in plant growth. I highly recommend it.
For small jobs get the bags, they have been composted for much longer and are finer. I use those for all my potting mixes.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 12:04PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Plants grow better with mulch than without. Digging amendments into individual planting holes, on the other hand, does not improve results. In fact, response may be less than without amendments, do to how movement of water into and out of amended planting holes is affected. Digging amendments into an entire yard avoids this problem, but there is still the fact that organic amendments decompose over time. In vegetable plots and annual flower beds new amendments can be dug in when the beds are empty each year, with permanent plantings this is not possible.

Here is a link that might be useful: Does mulch improve plant survival and growth in restoration sites?

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 12:57PM
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I have tried Cedar Grove several times, to many weeds and debree. In my dahlia bed I use mushroom compost now, but it really stinks, For a top dressing I use Olympic Mountain Organic Fish compost, it is black, black and looks really good, no weeds and keeps the weeds out. I have also been happy with Purdy Prep in the past, the later in the spring or early summer you get it the darker it is. I will not get Cedar Grove again.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 3:02AM
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I had a local trucker bring me a 5 yard load of Cedar Grove Compost last October. It was still hot and steaming when it arrived. When I spread it on the ground I got a terrible rash on some exposed skin. I thought the winter would mellow it out; but my little dog who was present when the mulch was spread out this April got a rash much like mine. Now I'm thinking, maybe it has something not so great in it.Or perhaps the person who had always been reliable got it from not Cedar Grove but who knows where? What do you think?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 5:29PM
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laurell(8 - Washington)

I had a few yards of cedar grove delivered to fill a bed last year. It has compacted into almost a cement-like texture. It's very difficult to dig in with a hand-shovel. Sure, there are bits of glass and plastic, but the most annoying thing is that it's not fluffy like the cheap compost from another place that I had delivered 2 years ago.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 12:12PM
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I was wondering, since I have one of those buy 2 get 1 free coupons for Cedar grove... how much does a 1 cu ft bag cost? I saw some at Fred Meyers yesterday for about $5.25 a bag, and it seemed sort of high. I have seen cheaper stuff 3/$10 stacked outside the local Safeway. I only need 3 or 4 cu ft, so do you think that the Cedar Grove with a buy 2 get 1 free deal, or the cheap 3/$10 is more worthwhile?

Rather than ask which compost is especially good, can I ask if anyone has every bought a brand of especially BAD compost, that I should avoid?

I can't say I'm too picky about the quality, as long as it's not too trashy or smelly, or full of weed seed. I can deal with lumps. A lot of the lumps of plant matter sort of disintegrate on their own in my experience. Glass and plastic bits, not so much.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 5:31PM
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