Transition Whatcom

I am wondering what folks would recommend as the best source(s) for to get bulk garden soil medium for growing veggies and other edibles.  I know this is outside of the Permaculture ideal, and the best thing is to develop my own great soil, but for situations where that isn't practical to start with, what would you suggest for a Bellingham resident?  It could either be delivered or loaded onto a pick-up/trailer.  Thanks.  Maggi K.

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Hi Maggi

Smits near Lynden has aged cow manure compost.  A couple of years ago they had some, as did some other places in the area, that was tainted with herbacides - can't remember the name of the stuff, but it killed plants even though it had been through a cow's digestive system - since then they have been very careful, field testing their compost, and the problem is gone now.  I bought some of their compost this year for a new garden and it is fine, and I know someone else who also bought some and there have been no problems with it.  It is beautiful rich black compost and I planted right into it.  If you are interested, their phone number is 354-3583.  they are only open from 8 - 5 Monday through Friday and 9 - 4 on Saturdays during certain times of the  year, so it would be good to call them first.  I know you can pick up from them, they load it into your vehicle, and I think they also deliver, for a fee.

Thanks Alys.  I have used Smits' bulk compost in the past (both as u-haul and delivered) and had great success with it as a soil amendment and/or mulch.  What I've seen in the past however is too coarse, with a lot of wood product, to use as the full planting medium without also combining it with soil.   I am currently inquiring about whether there is a good medium that can be used as is, and then it can continue to be improved in the future .  Perhaps this year's Smit product is more finished and finer than what I've experienced in the past? 

GrowSource (, out near Builder's Alliance, typically has nice stuff.

This is such an important question - and problem in Whatcom County.  I don't make my own compost either and have found it very difficult to source organic compost for the garden.  Smits is a conscientious outfit and I had used them for years until the herbicide problem deadened my garden (especially tomatoes).   They don't claim to be an "organic" dairy either.  And it is true, too many wood chips - so I wonder - are the wood chips treated?   GrowSource does not claim organic compost and so is not useful for my purposes.  

An alternative is to use organic products in prepping our own soil.  I have seen an organic chicken manure sign in Skagit Co on the way to Anacortes.  But other than that, I don't have an outlet for organic, composted manures nearby.  Any suggestions?

 "Organic" labeling in the soil world means no synthetic fillers, but it does not mean the soil is pure organic as I think of it - that is, a rich, natural soil, composted with only organic materials and NEVER having ANYWHERE in the process of making it, the addition of chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and the like.  It is sad that this is such a tough order to fill.....

Thanks!  A few questions, re: hay bale culture: 1) is it a slug attractant?  2) can you plant corn etc. next year, or does it take multiple years to "stabilize"?  3) Does it only work, or work best, if you use bales intact? 4) Ideas for good hay source? 

Maggi, I've looked on Craig's List for hay with clover in it (or other 'weeds') to avoid the herbicide referred to here (aminopyralid). (If it has weeds then it probably didn't get herbicides used on it).  I've also gotten hay from a friend who has a fallow field that they just get someone to cut and bale it up. They've been kind enough to share some with me. So asking around and forming connections with county folks is another route. 

I much rather deal with the weeds that will be in a non-herbicide sprayed hay than get more of that herbicide into our soil. Others might not want to import weeds seeds but I have found using hay with weeds not to be any more of a problem than the weeds that already persist here anyway.

As for slugs...I just try to not have the hay/mulch really close to newly planted seedlings. Once the plants get big enough they aren't as bothered by slugs.

You may also want to check out "Bio-Char Solution" by Albert Bates.

Compost & Animal Poo & Organic Matter Locations-   . Great link from our past Earth Gardens discussion  & lists more compost/soil/organic matter sources.

Thanks all for answering Maggies discussion question!  To receive emails on any discussion, remember to click the 'Follow' link.   Thanks Walter for sharing on hale bale culture & hugelkultur....good reminder to use what resources we have locally, and not always having to buy something to grow a garden and our nourishment.

If someone wants to start a seperate discussion on building rodent proof compost bins for city-dwellers, that could be helpful to those who would prefer to keep their organic kitchen 'wastes' for their garden, rather than putting them in the city's recycle-compost bins.


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