Compost – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Soil & Fertilizers Glossary

I. What is Compost?

Compost is a nutrient-rich soil amendment that is made from decomposed organic matter. It is often referred to as “black gold” by gardeners because of its ability to improve soil structure, fertility, and overall health. Compost can be made from a variety of organic materials, including kitchen scraps, yard waste, and manure. When properly made, compost is a valuable resource that can help plants grow healthier and more productive.

II. How is Compost Made?

Compost is made through a process called decomposition, where microorganisms break down organic matter into a dark, crumbly substance. To make compost, you will need a mix of “green” materials, such as fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and coffee grounds, and “brown” materials, such as leaves, straw, and newspaper. These materials are layered in a compost bin or pile and then turned regularly to provide oxygen to the microorganisms that are breaking down the organic matter. Over time, the materials will decompose and turn into compost that can be used in the garden.

III. What are the Benefits of Compost?

There are numerous benefits to using compost in the garden. Compost helps improve soil structure by adding organic matter, which helps soil retain moisture and nutrients. It also provides essential nutrients to plants, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are necessary for healthy growth. Compost can also help suppress plant diseases and pests, reduce the need for chemical fertilizers, and promote beneficial soil organisms. Overall, using compost in the garden can lead to healthier plants, increased yields, and a more sustainable garden.

IV. How to Use Compost in the Garden?

There are several ways to use compost in the garden. One common method is to mix compost into the soil before planting to improve soil fertility and structure. You can also top-dress existing plants with compost to provide a slow-release source of nutrients. Compost can be used as mulch to help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. Additionally, you can make compost tea by steeping compost in water and then using the liquid to water plants, providing a nutrient boost. No matter how you choose to use compost, it is important to incorporate it into your garden regularly to reap the full benefits.

V. Common Composting Mistakes to Avoid

While composting is a relatively simple process, there are some common mistakes that can hinder the decomposition process. One common mistake is not providing enough oxygen to the compost pile, which can slow down decomposition. To avoid this, be sure to turn your compost regularly to aerate it. Another mistake is adding too much of one type of material, such as grass clippings, which can create a smelly, slimy mess. It is important to maintain a balance of green and brown materials in your compost pile. Lastly, not monitoring the moisture level of your compost pile can lead to either a dry pile that doesn’t decompose or a soggy pile that smells bad. Be sure to keep your compost pile moist, but not waterlogged, to promote decomposition.

VI. What Can and Can’t be Composted?

While many organic materials can be composted, there are some items that should be avoided. Items that can be composted include fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, yard waste, and shredded paper. Items that should not be composted include meat, dairy, bones, oils, and pet waste, as these can attract pests or introduce harmful pathogens into the compost pile. It is also important to avoid composting plants that are diseased or have been treated with pesticides, as this can spread disease or chemicals in the garden. By being mindful of what can and can’t be composted, you can create a healthy, productive compost pile that will benefit your garden for years to come.