Has it ever occurred to you to encounter the word “compost”, perhaps in a conversation with a friend or maybe at the radio? Well, if it happened but you still do not know what it refers to there is no need to be ashamed, because this concept is still unknown to many and today you are going to have a clearer idea about it. What is it? How does it work? What are its benefits? Let’s dig into it!
First of all, compost is decomposed organic material. Think about leaves or vegetables scraps, they are all materials that make compost, which is often considered as “black gold” by gardeners. In a nutshell, compost is perfect for garden soil because of the many benefits that we are going to discuss soon. However, before doing so, it is worth explaining how the compost process works.
There are four main elements that are fundamental for the composting process: organic matter, moisture, oxygen and bacteria, each of them with a different and vital function.
Within the category of organic matter it is possible to find plant materials and animal manures. Usually, in order to guarantee a good outcome of the process, there should be a proportionate mix of brown organic material, such as leaves and twigs, and green organic material, such as fruit rinds. The reason behind this choice is that the former act as a supplier of carbon, while the latter provides nitrogen. In addition, it is possible to speed up the process by cutting these materials into small pieces.
Moisture has a supporting role in the composting process. However, it is important that the pile of materials does not get too wet or the outcome of the process might not be as intended. On the other hand, if the pile gets too dry materials will decompose too slowly. Therefore, surrounding the area of the compost with a sliding tent could be a good solution to avoid problems.
For what concerns oxygen, it must be said that it is essential to support the breakdown of plants by bacteria. In fact, among gardeners it is not uncommon to make sure that the pile is turned often, so that materials at the edge can be supplied by oxygen. In this regard, bacteria has a crucial function as well, since they are the ones that really break down materials into compost and, therefore, complete the process.
As already mentioned, compost brings many benefits with it. First, it energizes the soil food web, made of bacteria and fungi, earthworms, crickets and other life forms that are often in a symbiosis with plants and help them grow efficiently. Secondly, research suggests that through compost tomatoes and vegetables’ chances of surviving diseases increase. Moreover, their flavour and nutrient values is believed to improve as well. Finally, compost helps retain soil moisture, making it easier for gardeners to cultivate healthy plants.