Amending soil with compost increases the fertility of the soil. Good soil should be 20 to 30 percent organic matter. Compost is organic matter that is rich in living organisms. Adding compost to garden soil helps it to retain water more efficiently. Composted soil is the essential building block to sustainable agricultural practices.
Compost is plant matter, animal manure and other organic materials that have decomposed and become dark brown or black crumbly soil. Compost is created when microorganisms break down plant materials and animal manure into rich, fertile earth. Finished compost is also called humus. When compost is added to garden soil it increases the vitality and nutrient content of the soil. Compost in soil acts as a fertilizer to growing plants.
Compost is made by combing nitrogen and carbon materials with water and oxygen. Nitrogen materials are green yard clippings, plant cuttings, kitchen waste, and coffee grounds. Carbon materials are leaves, newspapers or straw. These materials are combined in a pile or compost bin and watered down. The combination of water and air produces the chemical action of decomposition. The materials change form and become rich, crumbly, dark soil.
Compost in soil feeds and sustains plant life. There are earthworms, fungi, protozoa, small mammals, bacteria and small algae in good soil. These microorganisms reproduce constantly, providing nutrients for the crops that grow on the soil. Soil that is not fed compost eventually becomes gray and lifeless and produces low-quality food.
Backyard composting is the easiest and least expensive way to put compost into garden soil. Methods of home composting include bins, worm composting, food digesters, and burying food scraps. Burying food scraps and grass clippings is a simple underground method for introducing compost into garden soil. There are many varieties of commercial compost bins available by mail order and at garden centers.
Compost in soil creates an environment of living organisms that constantly reproduce. Microorganisms provide slow-release of nutrients into the root structures of plants. It provides plants with a slow, constant release of nutrients. Chemical fertilizers give a sudden boost to plants but do not provide constant nutrient release.
The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that compost helps decontaminate soils that have been overexposed to heavy metals and other contaminants. Compost helps regenerate soil that has become lifeless and unproductive. Compost added to garden soil helps sandy soil improve water retention, helps clay soil to aerate, and increases microorganism growth in all soils.