What is Compost?

What is compost, anyway?  You have heard the term, and you know it’s good for plants, but why?  This post will take a look at just what is composting, and why you want to do it (or at least use it).

What is Compost – Really?

The definition of compost, according to Wikipedia is, “aerobically decomposed remnants of organic matter”.   (Wikipedia is a little off, though, because compost can also be created anerobically as well.)

So in other words, composting recycles kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, leaves, grass clippings, etc. into something often called “brown gold” because of its value to your garden.  Finished compost looks like rich soil, and smells slightly sweet and earthy.

Compost Uses

Compost’s biggest value is being used as a soil amendment.  When compost is mixed in with regular garden soil, it adds beneficial bacteria and fungi, along with nitrogen and other nutrients.

Compost helps to lighten heavy soils and enrich sandy soils.  Earthworms love it, as do plants of all kinds — including tomatoes, naturally!  Compost is a natural fertilizer, adding nitrogen and trace elements to your garden.

Compost can be used as a mulch, and it can also be used to make an awesome “tea”.  Here’s an article on how to make your own compost tea.

Compost Sources

You can create your own compost, or you can buy it.  The purchased compost I like the best is composted cow manure, as it’s the closest to homemade (at least where I live).  However, I also like to mix in some compost that is high in humus – like that made from the leavings of mushroom growing.

However, unless you have a very small garden, buying enough compost to truly enrich your soil could get quite expensive.  That where creating your own compost can come in awfully handy.

Compost is Recycling

One of the nice things is that compost is recycling.  Organic items you’d normally throw in the trash become stuff that gardener’s dreams are made of.   This includes paper products, kitchen scraps (except meat and fats), grass clippings, leaves, pine needles, weeds (as long as they are not blooming), manure, etc.  All of these eventually turn into glorious compost!

How to Compost

I’ll be writing several more posts on composting, such as vermicomposting (using worms), urban composting, using bins, compost tumblers and the like.  So stay tuned, and as I get the articles written, I’ll come back and put in links to those pages.


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