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Bagged black earth...a scam ?

Posted by andre_7 7 Canada, 5 USA (My Page) on
Sun, May 24, 09 at 16:55

I just read an article claiming that 'black earth' sold in bags is totally devoid of nutrional value for plants and could even be toxic for them. The author claims that this earth is exposed when peat moss is removed from fields and is valueless, except for the fact that people are under the impression that it can enrich their gardens or flower beds and will purchase it.

Does that story make sense?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

Nope, it doesn't.


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

I'm hesitant to comment on an article I haven't read. Can you post a link to it?


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

As a rule buying soil, or earth, in a bag is a waste of money since that would be about 95 percent mineral (which you already have lots of) and maybe 5 percent organic matter (which is what most soils really need). If someone is selling such a product it may be local since I find nothing about it anywhere, yet.


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

  • Posted by andre_7 7 Canada, 5 USA (My Page) on
    Mon, May 25, 09 at 8:46

The article appeared in Le Soleil, the French-language daily from Quebec City...and, of course, it is in French. Here is the link in case you can read French!

The soil shown in the photo does not look at all like what is found in bags of black earth...

http://www.cyberpresse.ca/le-soleil/vivre-ici/horticulture/200905/15/01-857057-un-jardinier-averti-en-vaut-deux.php


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

It's hard to judge the soil from a big pile at a distance in a photo..Most of the cheap soil sold in bags contains sand, "forest products" such as rotting sticks. I once bought a few bags, very lousy stuff.


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

I can't recall ever seeing any bags of anything called "black earth" for sale. Compost, peat, all sorts of amendments etc. but nothing called black earth. Does it go by another name?

Dave


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

I ran it through babel fish to translate it because my French is too rusty. The resulting translation is a little awkwardly phrased, but I could understand it.

It looks like they're describing a couple of products that are available in Quebec (the bagged black earth and the bone meal) and recommending against it.

If these are accurate descriptions, I think you'd be better off using something else.

Here is a link that might be useful: Translated page


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

Hmm interesting read BP - "The commercial black cotton soil is in fact of the peat taken at the bottom of the peat bogs, under the fair peat which one sells under the name of horticultural peat (peat moss). This almost black peat is very acid and primarily without food value."

Found another article by searching "black cotton soil" about how it is prevalent in parts of India where it is also called Regur and it confirms the useless and potentially problematic claims made in the French article.

In fact Google it and you can't seem to find much of anything good about it so yes, andre based on that info I'd say avoid it. Doesn't seem to be something that is available anywhere in the US.

Dave


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

  • Posted by andre_7 7 Canada, 5 USA (My Page) on
    Mon, May 25, 09 at 13:14

Thank you for the information... I appreciate your going into the trouble of getting the article translated!

I live in Ontario, and the product that is available at our supermarket is called Black Earth. When it is just out of the bag and still humid it is jet black and claylike in texture.

Later today I will take a photo of the bag and of the information printed on it and post it.

I don't see a button to upload a photo in this 'Post a follow-up' section of the forum. I assume that I will need to post it in the Photo Gallery forum?


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

You can post it in the photo gallery section and link to it or you can upload it to one of the photo sharing sites like photobucket, picasa, imageshak, etc.


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

  • Posted by andre_7 7 Canada, 5 USA (My Page) on
    Mon, May 25, 09 at 22:16

I just uploaded the photo in the garden gallery forum under landscape design, container gardening etc.(None of the categories really fitted the photo subject...)

Larry Hodgson, the author of the article I refer to in a well known expert in Quebec who is (was?) the editor of a major gardening periodical (Plantes, Fleurs et Jardins). Given that that particular brand (President's Choice) is widely distributed in Eastern Canada through Loblaws Supermarkets, I would assume that if it were not to be included in his alert, the author would have have pointed it out. In fact he may very well have had that particular product in mind given its ubiquity.
There were thousands of those bags at our village store last weekend.

Re the term 'Black cotton soil' My first language is French and I had never heard that term before. I would be surprised if this is the type of soil that Mr Hodgson was writing about...

Thank you again for the assistance.


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

I provided a link to the picture below.

Does the bag have any details about what it really contains?

I'm not sure how Babel Fish came up with "black cotton soil." That's how they translate "terre noire."

My French is pretty rusty, but I went back and tried to read the article in French (switching to the Babel Fish translation when I had trouble). As rusty as my French is, I think terre noire would be better translated as black earth or black soil.

Although the article doesn't specifically name that brand, it does state that true black earth isn't sold in Quebec and that what is usually sold as black earth is really the "tourbe prélevée au fond des tourbières" which seems to be the stuff at the bottom of the peat bog after the peat is taken away.

In the US, we have a similar situation, although I don't think we're getting the bottom of the peat bog. There's no real legal definition here of topsoil, so just about anything can be labeled and sold as topsoil. I bought a truckload for a raised bed and what I got was a mixture of native clay, pea gravel and chipped wood. The stuff sold in bags in our "big box" stores (think Canadian Tire, Loblows, etc) is often even worse than what I got.

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to gallery


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

Terre noire, or black earth, is sold bagged in garden centers here. I think it's made by Isabelle, a Canadian garden products company. Their products generally list ingredients — I'll try to find it today and post more details. The author's point is that if it were real "black earth," or rich topsoil, it would stay on the farm to grow crops or, if sold, would be expensive.

The article also warns that bone meal, formerly ground animal bones, is now produced after various other processes have removed most of the nutritive value from the bones (for use in gelatin, glue, etc.), including most of the nitrogen and all of the potassium and minerals (leaving primarily phosphorus). The author claims this renders it much less useful for horticulture. Can anyone back up or contradict this? Are there any remaining sources for "real" bone meal?


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

bpgreen: the bag describes the content as topsoil made up of loam and humus. President's Choice is a well respected brand in Canada. I would be surprised if the product description was not reasonably accurate. But there is that article by Hodgson who is also a well respected authority..

Great that your knowledge of French allowed you to understand part of the article! I agree that 'terre noire' in the context of that article meant 'black earth' and not the other exotic 'black cotton soil'.

By the way, how did you insert the link to the gallery in your post?


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

Our local garden center sells black soil, or terre noire, made by Isabelle, another Canadian brand (based in St Michel, Québec). The package describes it as a mixture of soil and compost.


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

Andre, first posts don't have a place for a link. If you preview and then scroll down it will be there and you can add the link to the first post. A lot of people double post their own thread to get the link, but that removes it from the top of the list.

I usually prefer to post links in the body of the text.

Here is a link that might be useful: But some times I just get lazy and post the link here


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

bpgreen: the bag describes the content as topsoil made up of loam and humus. President's Choice is a well respected brand in Canada. I would be surprised if the product description was not reasonably accurate. But there is that article by Hodgson who is also a well respected authority..

Great that your knowledge of French allowed you to understand part of the article! I agree that 'terre noire' in the context of that article meant 'black earth' and not the other exotic 'black cotton soil'.

By the way, how did you insert the link to the gallery in your post?


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

To me it sounds intriguing. No nutritive value? Highly acid?
If it is actually from where they say it is, I would buy a bag if it were cheap, just to test it out. If it were REALLY cheap, I might buy a few more bags.
Highly acid material with good tilth would be great for potatoes for instance. I do not want to sound too cheap or anything, but if it were priced at a couple of bucks for 20 liters or so, you could grow some potatoes right in the bag. Mix in a little compost and manure probably, and let em go.
On the other hand, they are probably trying to make an extra buck on various other claims, so it is not likely to be cheap. Where I live, anything that is bagged for use in the garden has an NPK rating. Compost, manure, container soil, etc. I can then choose horses for courses.


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

Just thinking about the conditions at under a peat bog, I would expect soil that is 1) high in organic matter, 2) anaerobic, and 3) acidic. High in organic matter is a good thing, and anaerobic and acidic can be adjusted by mixing in compost and allowing the soil to be in contact with air for a period of time. If I was making a new raised bed or adding to a garden using this stuff, I might do it in the fall and let it rest and equilibrate with the atmosphere over the winter. But it wouldn't scare me too much. This is all just guesswork on my part, never having touched the stuff.

Note, bagged products like this have a limited value per lb. in the market and are expensive to ship because of the weight, so they are almost always REGIONAL products. Mine won't be like yours won't be like his and hers. So if you post about "How is XYZ product", most of us will never have seen it.


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

It sells for 2-3 dollars (Canadian). Re potatoes, we live on a lake and have a sand beach in which I bury pots and grow flowers in them. I will bury a bag and plant potatoes to see what will happen.

Thanks again for you input


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

Should you be interested, I have posted a photo of my initial attempt to use our beach as a flower garden.

Here is a link that might be useful: beach garden


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

I have used the PC Black Earth product extensively and have been pleased with it. I mix it half-and-half with bagged manure, also from Loblaws. These work well when when I don't need large quanitites of soil (in those cases, I order by the yard from a local soil provider).

I once priced out the soil/manure by the bag, as compared with a similar half-and-half product delivered by the yard and they were almost the same price. So it is just a matter of which is more convenient.

One advantage of the bagged products over the delivered-by-truck products is that they are sterile; no weeds pop up when you spread them. On the other hand, some of the delivered-by-truck stuff that I have bought has immediately sprouted a great crop of weeds.


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

Black Earth is peat moss which is further decomposed than the regular horticultural peat moss, which is usually a lighter brown in colour. It's not accurately described as the stuff at the bottom after the peat is taken away. Rather, it's the bottom layers of peat which are older and further along in the decomposition process.

Black earth is also not hydrophobic as peat moss usually is.


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

ok, cal me stupid but...

i'm still not sure what the ingrediants are in black earth and wherther it is a good or bad supplement to my garden

note..it is so easy to work with


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

I know I am quite late to this party but I guess the question and article is as relevant today as it was in 09. I read the article. Basically he is saying to avoid buying bags labelled "black soil". That it is not true black soil, that being precious and reserved for better uses than bagging it. He says to look for bags labelled garden soil. He also mentions that the bone meal now sold is useless, because most of the minerals have been extracted from the product for other uses.


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

  • Posted by claire z6b Coastal MA (My Page) on
    Sat, May 31, 14 at 19:11

There is a product called Lambert's Black Earth which supposedly contains

peat moss
humus
limestone
dolomite

I know nothing about it but I wanted to post a link so others could comment.

hamiltongardener CAN 6a said, back in 2009:

"Black Earth is peat moss which is further decomposed than the regular horticultural peat moss, which is usually a lighter brown in colour. It's not accurately described as the stuff at the bottom after the peat is taken away. Rather, it's the bottom layers of peat which are older and further along in the decomposition process.

Black earth is also not hydrophobic as peat moss usually is."

It sounds like it might be a useful product.

Claire

This post was edited by claire on Sat, May 31, 14 at 19:19


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

This does sound like humus, aka an advanced stage of organic decomposition. This kind of stuff is sold for big $ in garden boutiques, isn't it? It would not have much as far as nutrients, but it's essentially the stuff we strive to develop in soil after adding compost for many years. If the article is just claiming it doesn't have NPK in it, well, neither does peat moss, but we don't rely on peat moss for NPK either. I don't really see the problem, unless gardeners are buying it thinking it's rich topsoil with lots of nutrients.


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RE: Bagged black earth...a scam ?

I am rather upset to read about bone meal. Is it possible at all to get bone meal which has retained all nutrients. I also buy dried blood meal. Has anyone heard anything about tinkering with bloodmeal. Or is it still useful product we were all lead to believe. I wonder if Sheridan Nursery has these products as they are supposed to be. Or sells these things as they are now at high prices.


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