What is compost and how do I use it?
Updated: Sep 7
Compost is a friable, dark soil that is rich in nutrients and is used as mulch, fertilizer, or soil conditioner, but is rarely used directly for growing plants.
Create compost from food scraps, garden waste, and other organic waste by allowing beneficial bacteria to break everything down into its essential elements. It happens every day in nature, but composting at home allows you to control and improve the process and results.
Why is compost so beneficial to plants? What is compost made of? Can you really make it in your kitchen? These are just some of the questions we are answering in this article. After reading, you will have all the information and the benefits it can bring to your lawn and garden.
What is compost?
Compost, also known as "black gold" or "garden gold," is friable, dark, humus-like soil rich in organic matter and nutrients from rotting food and garden waste. The process of breaking down this material is called composting and uses beneficial soil organisms to convert organic material into building blocks.
Gardeners and lawn owners love using compost as mulch, topsoil and soil conditioner to support plant growth and improve crops.
Homemade compost is easier to produce than most people think. You can compost outdoors, under a shady tree in your backyard, or indoors with a compost bin, under an indoor sink, on a balcony, or in a basement.
Depending on the method, converting food waste and yard waste into compost can take anywhere from three weeks to a year.
Why use compost when you can buy ready-to-use fertilizer? You may be curious. Composting is so easy that anyone, even those with black thumbs, can do it. It's all natural, organic, and offers amazing benefits to your garden, lawn, and environment.
Benefits of homemade compost
When used well, compost has amazing benefits for your soil, plants, and crops. Here are some key benefits that will convince you that it’s time to start your compost pile!
Improve soil texture
Compost adds essential organic matter to soil that is lacking in synthetic fertilizers. Organic matter improves soil texture, increasing its water-holding capacity and helping plants cope with drought.
According to research, adding 1 percent more organic matter can help soil hold up to 20,000 more gallons of water per acre. In drought-stricken states like California, Utah, and Nevada, this can make a big difference in water use, crop yields, and garden maintenance costs.
Keeps soil microorganisms healthy
Compost is rich in carbon, which means it stays in the soil longer and provides food for beneficial microorganisms in your lawn and garden. A good example is earthworms, which aerate and loosen the soil, improving drainage and limiting erosion.
Supports healthier plants and prevents mineral deficiencies
Compared to synthetic fertilizers, compost is also rich in trace minerals. In addition to the key nutrients found in commercial fertilizers (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), compost also contains calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and other minerals that plants need to grow healthily.
For example, adding compost to your lawn is an excellent way to prevent iron chlorosis.
Natural ways to balance the pH of acidic and alkaline soil
It is not uncommon for a soil test to show a pH imbalance that negatively affects your lawn, vegetables, flowers or trees. Changing soil pH using lime and sulfur can be difficult and is usually better done by a professional.
But you can’t go wrong with compost. The organic matter it contains is a natural buffer that gradually changes the pH from too low or too high to neutral. It also prevents rapid pH changes. All you need to do is amend the soil using aged compost.
Reduce food waste
Studies show that the average American family of four throws away about $1,600 worth of food each year. Instead of throwing that money out the window, why not reinvest it in your lawn and garden?
Remove kitchen scraps from your food waste bin for natural, organic compost that works magic for your lawn, ornamentals including indoor plants, and crops.
Reduce waste disposal costs
Did you know that food waste and garden waste make up almost 30% of our annual waste? Now think about the monthly cart fee you pay to properly dispose of your cart. Wouldn't it be better to save some money?
Set aside fruit cores, peels, vegetable scraps and old produce and turn them into natural fertilizer for your garden or potted plants. Reduce waste generation and waste disposal costs.
Actively reduce methane emissions from landfills
Food and garden waste that goes into landfills is typically covered by numerous other wastes and breaks down anaerobically without air. The anaerobic digestion process produces biogas composed of 50% methane and 50% carbon dioxide. This is a powerful greenhouse gas that is contributing to climate change even as you read this.
Currently, America's landfills are the third most significant source of methane emissions in the country, and we continue to supply raw materials to landfills every month.
Home composting is mainly done aerobically in the presence of air and produces low methane emissions. Preventing organic waste from going into landfills and being composted is a great way to protect the environment. At the same time, enjoy tastier, juicier fruits and vegetables, greener grass, and more flowers blooming in your garden!