Cotton Burr Compost 

What are cotton burrs?

The cotton “burr” is the bud leaf (sepal) of the cotton plant.

What makes Back to Nature Cotton Burr Compost so special?

Cotton burrs are rich in carbon and protein. They also contain significant amounts of plant macro and micro nutrients. When composted, cotton burrs are a superior food source for beneficial soil organisms. In Nature, it is those organisms that convert nutrients in soil to a form plants can use, aerate the soil, and keep harmful diseases and organisms in check. In short, Back to Nature Cotton Burr Compost and Blends are unmatched when it comes to conditioning your soil.

Isn’t all cotton compost the same?

Definitely not! The cotton variety grown on the High Plains of Texas, around Lubbock, where our plant is located, requires the use of a cotton “stripper” for harvesting. Strippers remove the burr, fiber and seed from the plant. Then, during the ginning process, the burrs are separated from the fiber and seed, and eventually end up as gin “trash”; the raw material for Back to Nature Cotton Burr Compost.

The variety of cotton grown in other areas of the U.S. requires the use of a mechanical cotton “picker” during harvest. Pickers remove the fiber and seeds from the burr but leave the burr on the plant, where it’s eventually tilled back into the soil. Without cotton burrs, cotton compost is no better than yard waste compost.

I have heard that Back to Nature Cotton Burr Compost does a great job of breaking up clay soil. Why?

Two reasons: One is the coarse texture of the product, which, unlike fine screened compost products, creates large pore spaces in the soil. The second reason is that the high food value of our cotton burr compost results in a rapid increase in the beneficial soil organism population. It is these organisms that break up the clay. In a nutshell, Back to Nature Cotton Burr Compost and Blends restores the natural life cycle in your soil.

Does Back to Nature Cotton Burr Compost help to conserve moisture?

Our cotton burr compost holds as much moisture as peat moss by volume, but unlike peat moss, BTN Cotton Burr Compost wets and re-wets easily. It can significantly reduce the amount of water necessary to maintain a healthy growing environment.

How about the chemicals used on cotton crops?

Back to Nature Cotton Burr Composts & Blends have always been virtually free from chemicals. We are a member of the United States Composting Council, and our products meet the requirements for the USCC’s Seal of Testing Assurance (STA).

Back to Nature Products are composted at temperatures approaching 160°F for up to four months. All carbon based (petroleum), chemical residues, as well as insects, weed seeds and harmful organisms are eliminated as a result of the biological digestive processes which constitute the compost process.

In the past, the primary concern with cotton gin waste was arsenic. For years, arsenic acid was used as a defoliant prior to harvesting in most of the U.S. On the High Plains of Texas, early freezes normally eliminate the need for chemical defoliants, and in the rare years where chemical defoliation was needed, sodium chlorate, rather than arsenic, was used. The EPA outlawed arsenic as a defoliant in the early ‘90s and the EPA now requires that all chemicals used on cotton be bio-degradable within two weeks.

How do Back to Nature Products compare to competitive cotton composts?

Composting is both a science and an art. The folks who manufacture and market Back to Nature Products have been in the cotton burr composting business since 1979. We introduced bagged cotton burr compost to the lawn & garden market, and delivered the first product to the Dallas/Fort Worth area in the Spring of 1982. We’ve made our share of mistakes, but we’ve learned from them. Our products are now available through independent lawn & garden retailers.

There’s not a lot of profit in the compost business, so you won’t see ads for our products every time you open a paper or turn on the tv. Our products have spread because our customers tell their families and friends about them. There’s no secret to our success. It’s simple…our products work! Sure, we have competitors, but none of them can match the quality and experience of Back to Nature Products.

Why do some cotton burr composts smell so bad?

We dealt with that complaint for years before we finally found the solution. What we eventually discovered is: If the product is bagged when the moisture content exceeds 35%, aerobes (microbes that require oxygen) die off, and anaerobes (microbes that do not require oxygen) take over. Anaerobes produce a noxious gas which results in the rotten smell. We learned our lesson, and finally figured out a way to control the odor problem. Now our products are bagged only when the moisture content in the compost rows is less than 35%. Then we use a proprietary curing process to ensure our products are the best they can be prior to shipping.

On rare occasions, our products can have a stronger than normal odor. That sometimes occurs in late April or May; the months when we receive the most rainfall. Coincidentally, those are our peak shipping months. So if we happen to run out of warehoused, cured product, we are forced to bag directly off the compost rows, and the result may be a stronger than usual odor, but never the rotten odor of some competitive cotton composts.

Can Back to Nature Composts be used in vegetable gardens?

Yes, and you’ll love the results!

Are Back to Nature Cotton Burr Composts & Blends safe for organic gardening?

BTN products are safe to use in organic gardening, but they are not “certified organic” because they are a by-product of agriculture. For agricultural products to be certified organic, they must be from certified organic farms. While there is some organic cotton grown, it is not nearly enough to satisfy the demand for our products.

Can I use Back to Nature Cotton Burr Compost straight?

You can plant directly into our Premium Potting Mix, however BTN Cotton Burr Compost and Blends are soil amendments and should never be used straight.

Can I use your product in potted plants?

Yes, we have a potting mix product that will keep your potted plants thriving all seson long.


CAUTION: Cotton Burr Compost contains tannins, which will stain concrete, stone, carpets, wood and other artificial surfaces.