Compost has been made and used across the globe for thousands of years. Dead materials in a compost heap or bin transform into substances that nourish new life. Compost is like “black gold” to experienced gardeners. There are many ways to use compost in your own garden, but first, let’s talk about how compost benefits soil.
The Best Environment for Your Plants
Compost contains nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and an abundance of micronutrients that are optimal for plant growth. The nutrients are released at the rate your plants need them, based on weather. Compost can also neutralize various soil toxins and act as a pH buffer.
When mixed with soil, organic matter in compost binds to particles to form small crumbs, or aggregates. Because of increased oxygen in the soil, aggregates are key for good soil structure, as opposed to sand or clay. It also improves drainage and water-holding capacity. The compost is also the perfect environment for earthworms and other microorganisms who rejuvenate the soil.
How To Use Compost
Compost is ready for use when it is a dark, rich color that crumbles easily in your hands. It shouldn’t be stringy or lumpy, and you shouldn’t be able to identify any of the original ingredients. It can take anywhere between 3 and 12 months for compost to be ready, depending on temperature, how often you turned the bin, and what waste material was used.
Soil amendment. Just before planting time, you dig 2-4 inches into the soil, throw the compost in, and mix it with the rest of the soil. Mixing compost with soil will provide a nutritious environment for your plants this season, giving them an advantage from the very start.
Compost Tea. This is the liquid matter released by compost. Sometimes it is produced naturally,b tu you can also make your own by steeping either a burlap sack or shovel full of compost into a 5-gallon bucket of water for a few days. You then simply pour the compost tea onto your flowers and plants. It’s like a natural version of Miracle-Gro liquid.
Mulch. When you use compost as mulch, you spread 2-3 inches on top of the surface, as you would with any mulch. Spreading the mulch around plants, trees and shrubs will continually increase the fertility of your soil. You will have to mulch once or twice a year.
Lawn Care. That’s right, your grass can benefit from compost just as much as your plants do. You just put 1-3 inches of compost on top of your grass, then rake and water it in. It will look like you have a dirt lawn for a week or two, but after that the compost will settle into the soil and disappear, leaving your grass with healthy soil to grow in. This should be done once a year, either at the beginning of spring or at the end of the season.
Becoming an composting expert and knowing the best material for your plants’ needs takes time and research, but it can pay out in the end for both your garden and our Earth’s environment as a whole.