All About Composting
What is Composting?
Composting is a natural process that turns organic materials into a dark, rich substance. This substance, called compost or humus, is a wonderful conditioner for your soil. As an organic-matter resource, compost has the unique ability to improve the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of soils or growing media. And while compost or humus contains plant nutrients, it is typically not characterized as a fertilizer.
How is Compost Made?
Compost is produced through the activity of aerobic (oxygen requiring) microorganisms. These microbes require oxygen, moisture, and food in order to grow and multiply. When these factors are maintained at optimal levels, the natural decomposition process is greatly accelerated. The microbes generate heat, water vapor, and carbon dioxide as they transform raw materials into a stable soil conditioner.
Active composting is typically characterized by a high-temperature phase that sanitizes the product and allows a high rate of decomposition, followed by a lower-temperature phase that allows the product to stabilize while still decomposing at a lower rate.
Compost can be produced from many “feedstocks” (the raw organic materials, such as leaves, manures, food scraps wet/soiled papers and certified biodegradable products
). State and federal regulations exist to ensure that only safe and environmentally beneficial composts are marketed.
Why Should You Compost?
- To make plants healthier - Organic matter is known as the “soul of a healthy soil.” Adding compost to your yard or garden will help your plants grow bigger and better. The organic matter in compost helps soil hold on to nutrients and water, benefiting your plants while reducing the risk of pollution.
- To save you (and your local community) money - Using compost as a soil conditioner or mulch reduces your need to purchase these lawn and garden products. Composting in your backyard may reduce your trash removal costs. Many sanitation companies charge customers by the bag. Your compost bin could decrease the number of bags your household generates.
- Because composting is practical and convenient - There's no need to bother bagging leaves and other garden/yard wastes. Simply add them to your backyard pile or bin and watch these items turn into rich dark humus.
- Because composting is a good alternative to landfilling or incinerating - Our yard and garden wastes account for almost 20% of the total amount of trash thrown away each year. Your choice to compost reduces the need to burn or bury organic material and increases the quality of our precious topsoil.
(reprinted from the US Composting Council)