What Is Compost?

Compost is simply decomposed organic material. The organic material can be plant material or animal matter. While composting may seem mysterious or complicated, it’s really a very simple and natural process that continuously occurs in nature, often without any assistance from mankind. If you’ve ever walked in the woods, you’ve experienced compost in its most natural setting. Both living plants and annual plants that die at the end of the season are consumed by animals of all sizes, from larger mammals, birds, and rodents to worms, insects, and microscopic organisms. The result of this natural cycle is compost, a combination of digested and undigested food that is left on the forest floor to create rich, usually soft, sweet-smelling soil.

Backyard composting is the intentional and managed decomposition of organic materials for the production of compost, that magical soil enhancer that is fundamental to good gardening. Anyone can effectively manage the composting process. In fact, if you have organic matter, it’s virtually impossible to prevent decomposition. The trick is to maximize the process of decomposition, while avoiding the unpleasant effects of the natural process of decaying matter. Compost is good; sloppy garbage heaps and rotting food are bad.

Why Is Compost So Good?

Compost is good for two very compelling reasons. It’s great for the garden, and it’s environmentally responsible.
Garden Benefits

Compost is great for the garden because it improves the soil, which in turn supports healthier and more productive plants. Compost provides virtually all of the essential nutrients for healthy plant growth, and it almost always releases those nutrients over time to give plants a slow, steady, consistent intake of the elements essential for growth. Compost also improves the soil’s structure, making it easier for soil to hold and use the right amount of moisture and air. Compost will improve the texture of both clay and sandy soil; indeed, compost is the best additive to make either clay or sandy soil into rich, moisture holding, loamy soil. And, as an added benefit, compost improves plant vigor and provides for improved immunology from diseases.
Environmental Benefits

The most obvious environmental benefit is that composting can significantly reduce the amount of solid waste that would otherwise find its way into the trash collection and dumping cycle. Clearly, the more we compost, the less we contribute to the cost of trash removal and the volume of solid materials in landfills. Using compost to feed your lawn and garden will also reduce your dependency on chemical fertilizers. So, you’ll save money and reduce – if not eliminate - the potential of chemical pollution to your little piece of the environment. Using compost instead of chemical fertilizers will ensure that your lawn and garden thrive in soil that is alive and healthy.

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Comment by sirkka on June 27, 2009 at 7:32pm
Hi Oz Gardener,

Like your article!

I am the editor of Tribe Magazine in Sydney and would like to use your article perhaps adding something about the fact that factory farming loses this benefit and that is part of the reason why foods are less nutritious because the soils are depleted from minerals.
Are you interested?
Sirkka.

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