Compost, an essential part of organic gardening, is formed when garden debris is allowed to decay. Compost is nutrient rich so its quite beneficial to plants when added cultivated into garden soil. The nutrient value of cost depends on the fertilizers and other nutrient-rich materials which are added to it as it goes through the decomposing process. Creating a compost pile is one of the easiest and smartest projects a gardener can undertake.  What could be better than free rich soil for your new gardens. 

The benefits of a composted humus is invaluable to the average gardener. It is no wonder that most amateur gardeners use compost in some form or the other. When nutritive elements have been added to compost it is used as rotted manure, while it is used as humus when no nutrients have been added.

Adding compost to the your existing garden soil not only provide nutrients fir your plants but also increase the soil’s ability to retain moisture. This is especially important for sandy soils and cloy soils. Sandy soils allow rain water to seep through taking all the nutrients down with it. Clay soils on the other hand can become so compact that it repels water and restricts root growth.

Anything organic, if left on the ground will eventually end up as compost.  Its basically a way for the earth to fertilize itself. Creating a pile for use in the garden speeds up the process, however, and results in an ideal soil additive.

LeavesDeciduous leaves offer great composting material though they usually yield little nutrients. Evergreen needles should be composted separately since they take longer to breakdown and contain material which prohibits the active microorganisms which aid in the composting process. Other material suitable for composting includes vegetable and fruit peelings, teabags, tea leaves, coffee grounds, dead flowers from the house, spent bedding plants, dead leaves, mowed grass, spent plants from hanging baskets or containers.

Accelerating Your Composting

Once you’ve started a compost pile encourage decomposition through aerating the pile. This can be done by turning the pile over with a shovel or loosening it up with a pitchfork. You can also add straw or some fibrous material which will allow some air circulation within the pile. Turning the pile will also mix the materials, creating optimal condition for decomposition. Drier material such as oak leaves will decompose better if mixed with moist grass clippings. Counter the acidity of the pile with lime, cracked egg shells, wood ash or ground dolomite.  Adding seaweed or fishmeal to the compost pile will add nitrogen thus making the pile useful as a fertilizer rather than just a soil conditioner. Heat is important to kill off any weed seeds.  The heat can be enhanced by covering the pile with straw or a tarp. This is especially important for small piles as they generally don’t produce as much heat as larger piles.   

Use the compost as soil conditioner, to cultivate into containers and potted plants, to raise garden beds which require highly nutrient soil. It can also be used to seasonally top dress annual or perennial beds. This will replace lost soil nutrients. Used as a mulch layer, compost will conserve soil moisture and help prevent weeds

If your garden is large and produces quite a bit of garden waste then two piles are a good option.  One pile can consist of material that quickly breaks down and the other of slowly decomposing material such as twigs. Also, make one pile for the vegetable garden and the other for shrubs beds and trees.

Related Articles: Organic Gardening, Garden Soil, Mulch