Garden Primer: What is Composting?


For many gardeners, compost is something they buy in a bag from the local nursery.  They bought it because a friend, neighbor, or perhaps someone from their local gardening club said they use it.   Comments ranged from, “Wow… my tomatoes have never been larger” to “The flowers bloomed like crazy” or perhaps, “I never garden without it”.   But one question we should ask ourselves…. do we really know what is compost?

organic matter in compost bin

organic matter in compost bin

The act of composting is the transformation of organic waste (such as vegetative kitchen scraps and plant material) into a soil-like material.  It is typically dark brown in color, has an earthy aroma, and has a uniform appearance as well as texture (meaning that you would not be able to identify the straw, carrot tops, tree leaves or other original materials that went into the creation of the compost).

Composting is a naturally occurring process.  While other sources may site that composting is a human driven process, as a Master Composter, I can state that these materials would still break down on their own, but that human involvement simply speeds up the decomposition process.

Compost is a wonderful soil amendment.  It can be purchased at just about every nursery, garden center, and large box store that sells plants across the country.  Now while these stores are a handy source for compost, did you know that you can make compost at home?

compost in a garden bed

compost in a garden bed

Compost bins are available at most of the same stores that sell compost.  They are even available from online sources.  Depending on the size and style of the bin, prices range from approximately $5o – $200.  However, if you choose to save some money, you can build a compost bin and/or system at home.  You could re-purpose lumber and/or hardware cloth, perhaps use an old trash can, or even a large plastic container.  Imagine making your own compost at home.  Not only will you be making a valuable soil amendment, but you will also be reducing the amount of organic material that may be going into your trash.

So fellow gardeners, now you know.  Compost is a soil amendment.  It should be something that you add to your gardening regime.  Now the question becomes whether to buy or make it yourself.  But which ever method you choose’ bag, bulk, or made at home, compost will make a difference to your garden.




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