Why compost? Simple. Composting is part of the answer to one of the most pressing issues of our time. All across our country landfills are full to overflowing; we are running out of space to put our waste. Garbage incineration is quickly falling out of favor, and we continue to have trouble finding other disposal options.
Composting can help us reduce waste that needs to be disposed of, and it’s a very practical way to produce a product that can be used in gardens of all kinds, landscaping and even house plants. Compost is the gardener’s best friend. What a fantastic way to reduce, reuse and recycle the stuff we would normally throw away.
As an educational tool, composting can’t be beat. Teach your children to be conscientious stewards of the environment by teaching them to compost. If there is not a program in your community or neighborhood school, consider starting one. Kids can see leftovers turn into rich, brown compost they can use in the garden; it’s a very hands on experience. Composting will also get your kids asking questions about science and how all that ordinary stuff becomes something completely different and valuable.
1. Create Compost
By combining organic wastes like leftover food, clippings from your yard, branches and twigs and manures from farm animals like cows or chickens, you can create your own compost. You should also add things like wood chips to speed up the breakdown of the organic materials you’re using. The wood chips will help the finished material to become fully stabilized and mature all throughout the curing process. When your compost is completely mature it will have a dark brown or black component called humus.
2. Where Did Compost Begin?
The natural process we call compost has been happening since our planet began. It’s a simple process of biological decomposition; plants on earth have been doing it for a long time. As vegetation from plants and trees falls to the ground and slowly decays, it provides minerals and nutrients for other plants, animals and microorganisms. You might say that compost is how the planet feeds itself. In order for compost to become mature, high temperatures are needed to kill pathogens and weed seeds that the natural decomposition process doesn’t destroy.
3. Reduce Your Need for Chemical Fertilizers
Using chemical fertilizers on your lawn and plants is one way to get a greener lawn, but it’s not the best thing for our environment. Over time, the use of chemical fertilizers, which are highly acidic, increases soil acidity. This, in turn, reduces beneficial organisms that live in the soil; it also can stunt the growth of plants. All of this upsets the natural ecosystem, and leads to an imbalance in Mother Nature’s system as well as an imbalance in the plants themselves. Chemical fertilizer works faster than compost to provide plants the nutrition they need, but you should apply it with moderation. Too much can burn and even kill plants. Chemical fertilizers also seep into the ground water and their manufacture releases greenhouse gases into the environment.
4. Stimulate Higher Yields of Agricultural Crops
Farm composting is done on a large scale and has been shown to actually increase farm yields of agricultural crops. Farm composting is done by placing materials like manures and plant products in long trenches, sometimes as long as four miles long, two miles wide and two miles deep. The waste material is layered with each layer being moistened with water or cow dung slurry, which is basically liquefied cow manure mixed with other biodegradable farm products. Within about five to six months compost made in this way is ready for application on farm crops. Compost made this way helps the plants deal with environmental stressors and helps them absorb nutrients faster.
5. Facilitate Reforestation
It’s an unfortunate fact that a lot of the organic materials in the soils of our country have been stripped away by natural and man-made stresses like erosion, flooding and logging. That’s where compost comes in; it can actually restore barren soil in places like our forests and wetlands. When the missing infrastructure ingredients of soil, that soil can be rebuilt. Humus is the organic component of soil and is formed by the decomposition of leaves and other plant material. When it is added to the soil, the nutrients that plants need to reestablish themselves are put back into the soil. In this way, soil can be rebuilt.
6. Amend Soil Problems
Depending on what type of soil you have, compost can help you amend, or improve it. The three types of soil are clay, loam and sand, and you probably have some idea of what type yours is. Sometimes soil can be a mixture of one or more of these three types. Adding compost will help any kind of soil that you may have. If your soil is clay, compost will help it drain better. If your soil is sand, compost will help it hold onto moisture better. Finally, if your soil is loamy, then compost will do some of both of the above.
7. Clean up Contaminated Soil
Compost can clean up any soil you have that might be contaminated by things like hazardous materials in the environment. An example might be wood contaminants like creosote, which is a wood preservative distilled from coal tar. Heavy metals and petroleum products are two more examples of soil contaminants that compost can help clean up. The natural metabolic processes of plants and/or microorganisms found in compost can stabilize or degrade these and many other sorts of environmental contaminants. Bacteria and fungi are two of the main components of compost that will help clean up your soil.
8. Remove Storm Water Runoff Solids from Soil
Storm water runoff happens when precipitation from rain or snowmelt flows over the ground. Streets and sidewalks in our cities keep the storm water from naturally soaking into the ground. You might not think this sounds like a problem, but as the water moves along our city streets and sidewalks it picks up contaminants like chemicals, oil and grease. These substances in the water eventually flow into our lakes and rivers. These contaminants also get into our soil; this is where compost comes to the rescue once again. Add compost to your soil and it will naturally attack and remove many storm water runoff impurities.
9. Save on Your Water Bill
Water plays a major role in a healthy, good looking garden or lawn, but that doesn’t mean your water bill has to be sky high. Composting your garden can help you save big on your water bill. Besides choosing native plants, using drip irrigation and mulching, compost is the smart way to save water. We Americans consume 26 billion gallons of water a day, but just a little composting can go a long way in helping reduce that number. Composting provides a natural barrier against evaporation. You’ll be watering less because your plants and lawn will be able to hold onto the water you give them longer.
10. Balance Compost Materials
Materials that you use in your compost should contain things like grass clippings, food scraps and manures from animals such as cows, pigs and chickens. These are your ‘green’ materials and they contain a lot of nitrogen. You should also include things like dry leaves, wood chips, branches and twigs; these are your ‘brown’ organic materials. The ‘brown’ ingredients have a lot of carbon, but not very much nitrogen. The idea is to experiment with this mixture until you get the right balance. This is the part of composting that takes patience.
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