When it comes time to add a boost of organic matter to the soil, you might find yourself wondering whether you should use cotton burr compost or mushroom compost. While both of these materials will add organic matter and improve soil health, they do have some differences.
The obvious distinction between the two is that each type of compost is made from a different material. Cotton burr compost is made from cotton waste products while mushroom compost is made from spent mushroom substrate.
There are also some less obvious differences between these two types of compost. We’re going to explain these to help you decide which product is best for you.
Short Answer: Cotton Burr Compost or Mushroom Compost?
The right compost for you depends on your native soil, what plants you hope to grow, and what is available in your area. While it would be easy to say one product is always better than the other, this isn’t the case!
Both cotton burr compost and mushroom compost will boost the organic matter in your soil. In turn, you’ll notice increased aeration and drainage as well as improved nutrient-holding capacity.
However, there are both poor quality cotton burr composts and mushroom composts in the world. If you choose a product that wasn’t made correctly, you run the risk of introducing weed seeds and harming your soil. So, the best compost is one that is well-made, no matter the type.
What to Look for in Cotton Burr Compost
A quality batch of cotton burr compost can boost the organic matter and microbial life in your soil. But a poor batch can introduce weeds and pesticides.
When you’re searching for cotton burr compost, make sure to buy from a reputable compost maker. If you’re buying bags from a store, you may be able to research specific brands by talking to store employees. If you’re buying in bulk from a compost facility or landscape center, you might be able to talk to the compost producers themselves.
Two main problems to look out for are weed seeds and residual pesticides. You won’t be able to spot either of these issues directly, but you can do some investigating.
If you spot mature weeds around a compost pile, it’s likely that weed seeds are being introduced into the finished compost. So, look for compost from a weed-free facility.
The biggest indicator that pesticides might be present is if the compost isn’t old enough. If the finished product looks chunky, it’s smart to pass. If you’re unsure, ask when the pile was started and avoid any compost less than a month old.
Is Cotton Burr Compost Good for Vegetable Gardens?
Cotton burr compost is good for vegetable gardens as long as it’s appropriately applied.
While some people have concerns about the safety of cotton burr compost due to pesticide residues, most pesticides used on cotton plants break down in a short period of time. So, when it comes time to apply the compost to your soil, there won’t be any pesticides present. Of course, there are exceptions, but cotton burr compost is generally safe.
To get the biggest benefit from cotton burr compost in your vegetable garden, aim to apply the compost a few weeks before planting. Another good practice is to mix the compost into the top six inches of soil.
By applying cotton burr compost to your vegetable garden, you’ll notice that the soil is better aerated. The soil will also drain better, yet also hold water, leading to both decreased runoff and improved plant resistance to drought.
What to Look for in Mushroom Compost
Just like with cotton burr compost, there are both good bad batches of mushroom compost.
Since mushroom substrate is usually sterilized before it’s composted, you don’t have to worry much about harmful pathogens or weed seeds. However, weed seeds can be introduced later on, so look to source your compost from a facility that’s free from weeds.
Another thing to look out for in mushroom compost is a high level of soluble salts. While most batches of this type of compost have an acceptable level of salts, some may contain high levels. You can always ask to see a test report for compost or conduct one yourself.
What is Mushroom Compost Not Good For?
You might have heard that mushroom compost can harm certain plants. While there is some truth to this statement, it all depends on how you apply the compost.
Some people say that mushroom compost is high in soluble salts, which can lead to problems with plant growth. This could be true of some mushroom compost, but studies show that most batches of this type of compost contain a safe level of salts when mixed in with soil.
Even though this type of compost is safe to apply to soils, you can run into problems if you don’t apply it incorrectly. Remember that mushroom compost, like all other forms of compost, is a soil amendment and not a soil itself.
It’s best to mix mushroom compost into your existing soil rather than applying a thick layer on top of the soil. If you try to plant seeds directly into mushroom compost, you might end up with some spotty germination due to salts and a lack of moisture.
If you’re trying to choose whether cotton burr compost or mushroom compost is better for your soil and plants, there’s not an one size fits all answer. Both products will improve your soil if you apply them correctly.
To choose the right type of compost, learn a bit more about each type. And make sure to investigate the specific cotton burr compost and mushroom compost that’s available in your area. By choosing a compost that was made using best practices, you’ll give your soil and plants a helpful boost.