Thursday, January 03, 2008

Home Composting 101

Welcome our newest guest blogger Mark Highland, President of Organic Mechanics®, as he answers the top three questions about composting he is continually asked by the consumers of his organic potting soil...

What is composting?
Composting is a natural biological process where waste organic matter is recycled and decomposed by microorganisms into a dark brown nutrient-rich material. Compost is a sustainable, renewable resource used to improve soils and to provide nutrients for plants. Composting helps to conserve environmental resources and to contribute to the ecological process of building healthy soils.

How is compost made?
It’s easy! Mixing “green” and “brown” ingredients together in appropriate ratios creates the perfect condition for the biological process of breaking down organic matter. As microbes like bacteria, fungi, protozoa, earthworms, and other “good guys” eat the compost ingredients they transform their food into fertilizer. When these microbes eliminate their waste, they add nitrogen and other nutrients to the compost pile.

Compost ingredients (food), moisture content (water), and production technique (aeration) influence nutrient levels and microbial communities present in the compost environment. Turning the compost pile accelerates the process by mixing microbes and composting materials, allowing oxygen to enter the pile, and releasing some moisture. Finished compost smells like a handful of freshly dug earth in spring, is dark brown in color, has a crumbly texture, yet is moist enough to form a ball in your hand without squeezing out even one drop of water.

Why should I use compost?
Using compost improves plant health. Compost provides beneficial microbes and plant nutrients, increases water-holding capacity, improves porosity of garden soils, and helps reduce soil compaction. Proper use of compost can increase nutrient and water retention by building populations of healthy soil organisms, resulting in larger, greener plants with more flowers and/or fruits. Add a one-inch layer of compost twice annually, once in spring and once in fall.

Last but not least....Be good to the environment!
In addition, composting is an easy way to make a positive environmental impact in your community. Did you know over 60% of all trash sent to landfills is either compostable or recyclable? By composting the organic matter generated at home, you help reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. Plus, it saves you money! Having plenty of compost available at home eliminates the need to purchase expensive soil amendments at the local garden center. A final reason to use compost is the feel-good factor. It just feels good knowing you made a difference in your backyard, doing your part to conserve environmental resources, and producing all the nutrients and mulch for your landscape!
Thanks Mark!

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