What is compost?
Compost is the product resulting from the controlled biological decomposition of organic material that has been sanitized through the generation of heat and stabilized to the point that it is beneficial to plant growth. Compost bears little physical resemblance to the raw material from which it originated. Compost is an organic matter source that has the unique ability to improve the chemical, physical and biological characteristics of soils or growing media. It contains plant nutrients but is typically not characterized as a fertilizer.
How is compost produced?
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 resources 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 for the product to stabilize while still decomposing at a lower rate. Compost can be produced from many feedstocks. State and federal regulations exist to ensure that only safe and environmentally beneficial composts are marketed.
Why should homeowners compost?
Composting helps keep organic matter out of landfills, saves money by reducing the need for fertilizer, water and garden supplies, and helps to limit pollutants contributed to the environment. Composting organic wastes at home (leaves, yard trimmings, food scraps, etc.) can reduce the waste annually disposed in landfills by 640 pounds per household.
What factors affect the composting process?
What are the benefits of using compost?
Differences between finished and immature compost:
Be aware that the use of incompletely decomposed compost in the garden may damage plants. If unfinished material is used, than the decomposer bacteria in the compost compete with plants for nitrogen in the soil to break down materials. As a result, plant leaves may turn yellow and growth can be stunted. In addition, organic acids in decomposing materials may cause harm to plant roots.
Finished compost qualities:
Immature Compost Qualities:
What are some uses of compost?
Mulching with compost
On flower and vegetable beds:
On trees and shrubs:
For erosion control:
What is grasscycling?
Grasscycling - the natural decomposition of grass clippings left on the lawn after mowing - encourages those tending lawns to leave clippings where they are cut instead of bagging them. Grass clippings are a major component of residential yard waste, sometimes as much as 50 percent. Four good reasons to start grasscycling:
What is xeriscaping?
Xeriscaping is landscaping with less water while maintaining a traditional look. Americans routinely overwater their lawns by as much as 20 to 40 percent. By not overwatering, water use can be reduced by about 12 percent during summer months.
What is vermicomposting?
Vermicomposting is a composting technique that uses earthworms to break down organic material. Several earthworm species can consume organic wastes rapidly and then fragment the materials into fine particles. These particles contain essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium that are valuable to plant growth.
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