Frequently Asked Questions
What are cotton burrs?
The cotton “burr” or “boll” 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.
So…if it isn’t from the High Plains of Texas, it ain’t worth havin’.!
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.
Is your cotton burr compost better than peat moss?
Peat moss offers very little value as a soil conditioner. It has no food value and it is virtually sterile. That’s why it’s used as a planting mix in greenhouses. Many people think that peat adds acidity to the soil. That’s true temporarily, but in a very short period of time, peat assumes the same pH as the soil and water it is mixed into. Another fallacy about peat moss is its moisture holding ability. It’s true that peat holds a lot of moisture. But if it ever dries out, it is almost impossible to re-wet. Last but not least, peat moss is expensive, and the harvesting of peat bogs is destroying valuable wetlands.
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 in 23 states.
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/boll 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.
How does Back To Nature Cotton Burr Compost compare to other composts?
The following list of commercially available composts is sorted in order of value as a soil conditioner:
1. Cotton Burr Compost. Unquestionably the finest soil conditioner available.
2. Yard waste compost containing twigs, leaves and grass clippings, especially the ones available from certain municipalities and/or from your own yard, is a good second choice to cotton burr compost, provided it’s well composted.
3. Leaf mold, which occurs naturally, is generally found under recently deposited organic matter on forest floors. Left alone it will eventually become pure humus. True leaf mold compost would be an excellent soil conditioner, but it would be prohibitively expensive if it could even be found commercially. Most commercial leaf mold composts are actually yard waste composts.
4. Due to their fine texture, most manure composts are more of a fertilizer than a soil conditioner. They have significant nutrient content and if not well composted, can contain a lot of salts, harmful organisms and agricultural based medications. Raw or poorly composted manures can also burn tender plants. Some of the inexpensive manure composts on the market today contain as little as 15% manure. The rest is inert filler material. Back To Nature Cattle and Chicken Manure Composts are a singular exception to this rule. They are 100% manure and are fully composted.
5. Mushroom compost is simply spent mushroom bedding. It is expensive and availability can be a problem. Most of the nutrient value has been depleted by the mushroom crops that are grown in it. Most mushroom composts are high in salts due to the chemical fertilizers that are used to grow the crops. In addition, the fine texture results in a very short soil life.
6. Rice hulls have no food value and are virtually sterile. They are an excellent aerator, but contribute little else to soils.
7. Peat/humus: Almost no nutrient value. The “humus” in peat/humus compost is usually just dirt, although it may have a little manure mixed in with it. Pure humus is very rare. It is what’s left over once organic matter has been completely digested by soil organisms. It’s the product of years of natural decomposition.
8. Wood based composts have almost no nutrient content and can severely tie up nutrients in the soil.
A word of caution; Beware the low-priced composts found in most big box stores.
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.
How do I use Back To Nature Cotton Burr Composts and Blends?
That depends on your soil type and drainage. To avoid introducing unwanted problems, use native soil from the same area where possible.
In clay soils, blend 1/3 compost to 2/3 native soil. In sandy soils, you can use up to a 50/50 mixture of compost to soil.
In new beds, till compost in to a depth of at least 6" and water thoroughly.
As a top dressing in existing beds, apply 1” to the surface of the soil and light rake it into the surface of the soil if possible.
As a top dressing on lawns, depending on grass height, apply 1/8" to 1/4" BTN Cotton Burr Compost or BTN “Nature’s Blend” with Humate and Alfalfa. Do not cover grass blades.
Note: The coarse particles in BTN Cotton Burr Compost can be raked up and placed in planting beds.
As a mulch, use a minimum of 2" of BTN Compost, or if you don’t like the appearance, apply 1" BTN Compost as an underlayment and put a layer of mulch over it.
Trees and shrubs: Mix BTN compost with the backfill material from the planting hole and use in planting, and/or apply it as a top dressing on the surface of the ground from the trunk to about 1' beyond the drip line of the tree or shrub.
In areas that tend to hold a lot of moisture, do not exceed 15% compost to soil.
What about your other products?
Natures’ Blend with Humate & Alfalfa is a fine screened blend of cotton burr compost, cattle manure, alfalfa and humate. Humate, a mined product also known as Leonardite, is a food source and activator for beneficial soil organisms, alfalfa contains a growth enzyme, and the two composts are the food source for the “bloom” of organisms that results from the application. This mixture has been shown in university tests to control fungal problems in lawns and flower beds. Till in or apply as a top dressing to existing lawns.
Several years ago, a prominent Rosarian discovered that roses respond beautifully to coarse screened cotton burr compost when blended into his rose beds or used as a mulch. He suggested we come up with a fine screened blend to use as a topical application in beds where tilling is not an option. The result is Back To Nature Rose Bed Amendment. It’s a fine screened blend of cotton burr compost, cattle manure, cottonseed meal, alfalfa and sulfur. Till into new beds or apply as a top dressing to existing beds.
BTN Rose Bed Amendment and Flower Bed Conditioner are the same product, in different bags. We came out with our Flower Bed Conditioner because dealers were telling us our Rose Bed Amendment works beautifully on flowers, but folks wouldn’t buy it because the bag specified that it’s for Roses. Different bag, same great product, same fantastic results!
BTN Cattle and Chicken Manure are both 100% manure. No fillers added. They are mature composts, low in moisture with very low odor.
Cattle Manure has been used for centuries as a fertilizer on agricultural land. Since 1979 our parent company; South Plains Compost, has been composting cattle manure from several feed yards on the Texas High Plains and spreading it over 100,000 acres of cotton land. The result has been a 25% increase in crop yields. Cattle manure is an excellent food source for beneficial soil organisms and is full of plant essentials nutrients and enzymes.
Chicken Manure is prized in Asia as a crop fertilizer. It has more available nitrogen than most manures and is full of enzymes. Roses and tomatoes love the stuff!
Can I use Back To Nature Cotton Burr Compost straight?
BTN Cotton Burr Compost and Blends are soil amendments. They should never be used straight.
Can I use your product in potted plants?
BTN Cotton Burr Compost and Blends are not designed for use as a planting mix, but if the mix contains soil, they can be very beneficial.
CAUTION: Do not use more than 1/3 BTN Compost in a planting mix. DO NOT USE OUR PRODUCTS IN A SOIL-LESS MIX; i.e. peat moss.
Caution: Cotton Burr Compost contains tannins, which will stain concrete, stone, carpets, wood and other artificial surfaces.