Composting / Composting Tips

Compost is Mother Nature’s way of recycling. Composting is a natural process that involves beneficial bacteria, fungi and insects. These busy organisms work hard to transform organic waste material such as leaves, grass clippings and yard trimmings into a dark, nutrient rich soil conditioner.

The Benefits of Compost

When used as a soil amendment, compost is a significant source of organic matter. Organic matter is an important supplier of carbon and a dynamic component in plant/soil interactions. It improves soil and plant efficiency by improving the physical properties of the soil, providing a source of energy to beneficial organisms, and enhancing the reservoir of soil nutrients. In addition to organic material, compost adds trace elements such as boron, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc to the soil which are required for plant growth. Compost binds these elements and nutrients in the soil ensuring that they are available over a longer period of time for the plants to utilize them.

Clay Soil

Compost improves aeration and drainage in dense soils like clay. The addition of compost to clay soils helps to increase the variety of particle sizes in the soil structure to overcome the poor growing characteristics associated with clay. The result is increased water movement during wet periods and increases the ability of the soil to retain water during dry spells. The larger particles also increase air flow through the soil which allows more air to reach the roots. The increased air movement also speeds up soil warming in the spring.

Sandy Soil

Compost improves the water-holding capacity and aggregation of sandy soils. The addition of compost to sandy soils introduces organic material to the high mineral content soil. This addition increases the ability of the soil to retain nutrients. The particle size offered by the compost also helps to increase the ability of the soil to retain water. Compost aids soil by improving the resistance to wind and water erosion. Adding compost helps prevent wind and water erosion by increasing the availability of water and nutrients to plants resulting in rapid strong plant growth in areas prone to erosion.

Using Compost

Compost can be used for gardens, lawns and plants:

  • Garden Beds: before planting, spread two to three inches of compost over the top of the garden bed, then work compost into the soil to a depth of six inches along with some blood meal (nitrogen), bone meal (phosphorus) and potash (potassium).
  • Potting Soil: mix 1/3 compost with 1/3 soil and 1/3 vermiculite or sand to create a nutrient rich potting soil.
  • New Lawns: spread out two inches of compost and rototill it to a depth of six inches, then smooth the surface with a rake and spread seeds or lay down sod.
  • Mulch: spread compost around the base of trees and shrubs, out as the furthest reaching branches or drip line, to help  retain moisture and prevent weeds and soil compaction.
  • Top Dressing: spread up to one inch of screened compost over an existing lawn to create a healthier soil structure. This can be done at any time, but for best results, top dress after aerating your lawn in the spring.
  • Compost Tea: put some compost into a burlap sack, or any type of porous material, and place it into a large pail of water for at least a couple of hours. Use the tea to water plants, vegetables or to water unhealthy patches of lawn.