The Dirt on Compost
We’ve heard about it. We know that it has something to do with the dirt and garbage. But what’s it good for and why do it? What the heck is it?
“Composting” is basically taking some carbon material (brown) like dead leaves, branches, twigs, etc. and some nitrogen-rich material (green) like grass clippings, fruits, vegetables, etc. and some water to create a medium, that when introduced to a garden or plant bed, has extremely positive effects. There is nothing magical here—though it might seem far-fetched that you can make fertilizer as good or better than a product you purchase at a store. The secret is in the technique and in your patience to see it through.
Let’s first look at the benefits of composting. Why do it to begin with?
• Enriches soil and acts as a soil conditioner
• It retains moisture and suppresses disease and pests
• Compost reduces the need for chemical fertilizers
• It encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi
• It’s good for the environment because it promotes recycling and reduces landfill waste
I could actually go on about the positive reasons for composting, but I think you get the picture!
The tried-and-true way of creating compost is just placing your material in a pile. Putting equal amounts of each material into layers and periodically turning it over. Nature takes over from here. Now, this can take some time. There are some commercial alternatives available which can speed this up, such as a barrel design, which allows you to simply turn the crank and churn the batch as you go. Whatever method you choose to use, the end results are identical. The material decomposes and produces nutrient-rich humus which can be added to any soil.
This isn’t rocket science and should not be looked at as a complicated activity that only master gardeners are able to achieve. The science of what takes place may be involved. That’s fine. You need not worry about that. Chances are that you are already recycling—why not add just an extra step and get more bang-for-your-buck while doing your part for the environment at the same time!