Gardeners and farmers often talk about composting, but most people don’t really understand what composting is or why it’s important.
You have soil that is naturally heterogeneous for a variety of reasons. It is composed of many different ingredients and they come in different concentrations.
Compost is man-made, not natural like soil. Does that mean it is homogeneous or is it also heterogeneous?
Compost can be homogeneous or heterogeneous. It all depends on what you put in it. Most compost is a heterogeneous mixture, even though it often looks homogeneous to the naked eye.
What is Compost?
Compost is organic matter that has decomposed. Decomposing is a natural process that happens when plants die. Compost is a great way to recycle organic materials.
Compost can be either homogeneous or heterogeneous based on the ingredients used. The majority of composts are heterogeneous as they use many different ingredients. Compost becomes homogeneous looking during the composting process.
Homogeneous compost is compost made from scraps of only one plant. Such as only carrot scraps or only potato peels. Homogeneous compost would have fewer vitamins and minerals because it comes from only one plant source. It is also more difficult to make.
Heterogeneous compost is compost made from scraps from multiple types of organic matter. A heterogeneous compost might include vegetable scraps, manure, dead plants, and more. Most composts are heterogeneous.
Types of Compost
- Commercial compost: Commercial compost is made commercially on big farms and used commercially on big farms. It is not available for the average person.
- Store-bought compost: Store-bought compost is mass-produced and great for those who do not have the time or space to compost themselves.
- Nursery Compost: Compost made at a plant nursery is the best of the store-bought compost options. It is often similar to homemade compost.
- Homemade compost: Homemade compost is more nutrient-dense than store-bought compost. Homemade compost is the best option if you have the time and space to make it.
Composting at Home
If you decide you want to make your own compost at home, there are a few things you want to consider before starting your compost pile:
- Nutritional Balance
- Scrap Sizes
The more variety of plant, fruit, and vegetable scraps you can provide the better your compost will be. Ideal compost needs both “green” and “brown” scraps.
Green scraps include kitchen scraps, grass, and manure. Green scraps provide a lot of nitrogen to the compost.
“Brown” scraps include dead or dying plants, leaves, and small pieces of wood. Brown scraps provided a heavy number of carbons.
Research what your plants need. Certain plants need certain nutrients. You can make a compost that will provide what they need with a little bit of research.
Some plants need more carbon, and some need more nitrogen. Knowing which plants you have and how much of each they need, will help you decide what portions of Green and Brown scraps to use.
Scrap sizes are important when composting. The smaller your pieces the more surface area is available for microorganisms to feed. Smaller sizes also produce a more homogeneous-looking compost.
Smaller sizes are also great for insulting and holding in heat. This makes it easier to keep the compost pile at the proper temperature.
There is one downside to small pieces, the fact they are so good at insulting can impact the compost pile ability to aerate. Ideally you would have a variety of sizes so as to prevent this problem.
The microorganisms that live and thrive in compost need moisture to live. Moisture is key to the decomposing of the scraps since it supports the microorganisms in their work.
Scraps will provide some moisture on their own. However, composting microorganisms need more moisture. Rainfall can provide the needed moisture for ideal composting.
If you live in a dry climate where rain does not fall often enough, you will have to water your compost pile. Having a sprinkler that goes off every evening or every morning would be ideal. It doesn’t need to water too long, just enough to keep the compost pile moist.
Temperature is very important in composting. A compost pile that is at the right temperature supports healthy microorganisms and creates the best compost.
The right temperature will destroy any diseases or pathogens in the composting material as well as kill any seeds of weeds.
The compost pile’s core should reach a temperature of 140° F. The outer layers will be cooler but still warm to the touch.
If the compost pile does not get hot enough then it will rot instead of decomposing into compost. Rotten compost is no good.
Compost and composting microorganisms need oxygen. It is important to make sure that oxygen can get into the compost pile and flow throughout.
Turning the pile, with a shovel or pitchfork, can help aerate it. Using a few different sizes of material will also allow for oxygen to move more freely.
Take care to not introduce too much oxygen as it will both dry out the compost pile and lower the temperature.
Benefits of Compost
There are many great benefits to composting. Compost energizes the soil with nutrients which helps plants grow stronger and healthier. Compost also helps soil retain water which keeps plants from drowning or drying out. Healthy plants produce tastier fruits and vegetables.
Energizes soil with nutrients
Compost is full of nutrients that give energy to the soil. These nutrients are also necessary for supporting the biodiverse ecosystem that lives within the soil.
Grows healthier plants
Soil with a rich variety of nutrients grows healthier plants. Compost provides nutrients not only for plants but for beneficial fungi and bacteria. These fungi and bacteria further breakdown the compost and provide even richer soil for plants.
Grows tastier fruits and vegetables and more beautiful flowers
Good soil is key to having healthy plants. Healthy plants are key to growing your own tasty fruits and vegetables.
Healthy flowering plants produce stronger, more beautiful flowers when they get all the nutrients and water they need. Flowering bushes and trees are also more likely to produce more flowers.
Helps soil retain moisture
Compost not only provides needed nutrients it also retains water well. This water retention helps keep plants from getting too wet or too dry.
What is the Difference Between Compost and Fertilizer?
Fertilizer is essentially plant food. Fertilizer mixed in with soil provides needed nutrients that not all soil may provide.
Compost is essentially soil made from organic scraps. Compost feeds the soil and enhances the soil. It does not directly feed the plants as fertilizer would.
To put it another way, fertilizer puts nutrients into the soil which are then absorbed by the plant’s roots when they absorb water. Compost, on the other hand, feeds microbes, fungi, worms, and supports the soil ecosystem which provides better soil for plants to grow.
If you are using compost but not seeing the results you wanted or expected, the addition of fertilizer may help. It is important not to replace the compost with fertilizer but add fertilizer with the compost.
If you are using fertilizer and your plants are not growing as well as expected, the addition of compost may be what you need.
In this case, you may choose whether to keep fertilizing and add compost or stop fertilizing and compost.