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PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2008 8:48 pm 
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I'm cleaning out a barn at an old horse farm, today ran across 2 large bags of food grade sodium bicarb in the feed room. I can't figure what it would have been used for - any ideas? Also, is it safe to add it to the compost? If not, how should I dispose of it? Thanks for any help!


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2008 9:39 pm 
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I wasn't going to answer any messages today but this looks like an emergency.

NO! You absolutely cannot put baking soda in compost. Baking soda is well known for killing the smell in tennis shoes and general fungus killing. It turns out to be one of the best fungicides there is. If you put it in your compost, you will essentially kill the pile. Furthermore the compost will become a fungicide everywhere you put it.

Organic gardening is all about protecting the beneficial microbes in the soil. Baking soda, while it is (ironically) approved for use in organic gardening, is pure poison to the soil. Good compost is usually the antidote for clearing up the aftereffects of using baking soda.

Having said all that, there are two specific times when it is probably necessary to use baking soda IN SMALL AMOUNTS in your organic garden. As a fungicide, it seems to be the only organic cure for the red thread and rust turf diseases. Ordinarily ordinary corn meal is the organic cure for turf diseases but rust and red thread do not respond to corn meal. However, a very light dusting of baking soda, followed 2 weeks later by a light dusting of excellent compost, should cure those two diseases. The other use for baking soda is to kill crabgrass in the south. Again, a very light dusting of baking soda onto wet crabgrass has been shown to kill the crabgrass in about 4 days. And 2 weeks later the area should be dusted with compost.

As to why they kept that much baking soda around, my only thought is to use as a fire extinguisher. When it gets hot it releases CO2 and will choke the oxygen off from a fire - even a grease fire.

How to dispose of it???
Don't put it in your pond or tank, but if you know anyone with a regular swimming pool, you can dump a cup or so in there every week. Or you can use it in your normal wash. It apparently helps clean clothes.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2008 10:32 pm 
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Thanks, David! I appreciate the quick response - but I really would NOT have dumped it into the compost without verification that was okay to do.

I'm glad that you told me just how destructive the stuff could be to the compost - I was just worried about upsetting the chemical balance! I'm still baffled about why it was there, although the previous owner was a retired fireman, so he certainly would have known about the fire extinguishing capabilities - it was stored way back in a corner in a *metal* barn, though, so wouldn't have been easy to get to in an emergency. Well, whatever it's past purpose, I'll try the laundry tip, since I don't know anyone nearby with a pool.

The crabgrass tip you mention does make me wonder, though - would it work on other grasses as well? I've got sections of the driveway which are sprouting grass, although I don't recall seeing any crabgrass - perhaps I could dust it with the soda and possibly be able to stop mowing the driveway? You say the grass should be wet - should it also be green? Like should I wait for spring growth to test that?

Thanks for sharing your knowledge - and I won't expect the reply tonight! :wink:


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2008 5:22 pm 
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I'm not quite as negative about the stuff. Here's some comments from my frien John Ferguson in Houston and I agree with him.

Small amounts of sodium bicarbonate scattered around a compost pile over time would not create many problems. Since it is water soluble it will disassociate into sodium and bicarbonate ions. Microbes(bacteria) will absorb some of the sodium into their bodies. Rainfall or watering will leach out the remainder. The bicarbonate ion will be broken down by the microbes into CO2 and released or used as carbon to build cell walls and then the oxygen atoms in respiration and end up as CO2.

When I was a boy I remember my uncle mixing in a little sodium bicarbonate into the lime he used for whitewashing tree trunks and painting pruned limbs on trees. He said it helped prevent disease on the trunks and cut areas. My grandmother used to use it in canning and cooking.

As mentioned it used to be used for fire control also.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2008 11:51 am 
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Thanks again, all the info has been helpful, and now I won't worry about *some* of it getting into the soil/pastures. Much appreciated!


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2008 9:19 pm 
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I don't see any reason not to agree with both of us. I was thinking of you dumping two large bags of it into a typical homeowner's compost pile. Howard''s message is about small amounts. As is seldom said on these forums but often said elsewhere, it is the dose that makes the poison. There are lots of things that become poisonous when administered in large doses.

And Howard's grandpa's advice about using it to control disease is exactly what I was talking about. Fungal disease. It works great. Just don't over do it, and if you use it for just about anything in the garden, be sure to follow up with some compost about 2 weeks later to reestablish any colonies of beneficial fungi killed off by the baking soda.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2008 9:34 pm 
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Thanks again, David - and you're right, I at first WAS asking about dumping it all in at once, which would have been disastrous. I think that it could also be used to 'freshen' the horse stalls - and then it would only be getting into the compost a little at a time as well. I do appreciate your initial warning, because I did find several other things (a bucket of old horse vitamins, a big bucket of buckwheat (I think), some blackstrap molasses, etc - things that were too old to be of nutritional value to the horses, but that I figured were fine for the compost - I just didn't know about the sodium bicarb, so I'm glad that I asked and got your reply.

I won't be afraid to use it in small amounts, but will be a lot more aware of the harm it could do, too.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2008 3:19 pm 
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Someone in the Campbell area heard about this and asked me to post again. He want to buy your baking soda. Please send me an email and I'll put you in contact with him.

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