Composting is human assistance with a completely natural process that involves breaking down and decomposing organic materials. The composting process invites thousands of tiny bacteria, insects and worms to come to the compost pile and eat the organic material there. Most of the bacteria that cause the material to compost properly are too small for the human eye to see, but they're a critical part of making compost successfully. Once finished, the compost has a number of benefits and advantages.
One of the biggest advantages of composting is that you're helping along a natural process. In nature, when plants die or leaves fall, they settle on the ground and naturally start degrading and decomposing. This is exactly what composting does: It allows the natural breakdown of organic matter and, in time, turns it into rich, fertile humus.
By purposely composting all organic materials from our homes, we are recycling that natural material the way nature meant it to be. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), organic matter such as yard trimmings and food scraps combined create a total of 23 percent of the United States waste. Putting this organic waste into landfills takes up un-needed space and because it's not properly composting in that environment, it generates methane gas and acidic leachate, which are harmful to the environment.
The composting process generates so much activity from microbial bacteria that heat is generated in the compost pile as the organic materials are decomposing. This combination of heat generation and friendly bacteria activity actually kills or suppresses most pathogens and common plant diseases.
When finished compost is applied to nursery plants and garden beds it can have the exact same effect, greatly reducing or eliminating the need for chemical and toxic pest or disease control products.
Finished compost is a very crumbly, rich, fertile soil or humus material. Adding it to your plants and gardens helps the plants retain moisture, suppress or kill existing plant diseases and pests, provides additional vitamins and nutrients that help the plants produce higher yields of flowers or food crops, and help prevent erosion and soil runoff from storm water.
Compost also helps clean up soil areas that may have been contaminated by oil, grease, heavy metals and other hazardous wastes.