Since the earliest days of creation plants and the soil have shared something of a symbiotic relationship with each other. As plants grow, they absorb valuable nutrients from the soil such as nitrogen, potassium, carbon and phosphorous. These and other minerals are vital to the plant’s health and growth.
In the spring and fall, of course, the plants are hard at work growing, maturing, strengthening, produces flowers, setting seed, and eventually, gathering strength for the winter. Throughout this time, but especially in the fall, the plant drops older leaves, flowers and even stems that are no longer needed by the plant. These organic materials fall to the ground where, over time, they decompose and become part of the soil.
Next time you are in a forest look at the ground under the trees. Not just the smaller undergrowth like shrubs, ferns and the like. But look at the ground itself. Any typical forest floor will be covered with pine needles, leaves, bark, twigs and branches. And this is what good soil is made of.
What is in Compost?
Composting is an effort to mimic what happens in nature. The garden will accumulate organic waste from all over the yard and, in an efficient and timely manner, get it to convert into decomposed, nutrient rich material. And that end-product is called compost.
Compost is a valuable substance for your garden. It is an organic material chock-full of all sorts of things that your yard will love! In addition to nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (the same big three nutrients that fertilizers are designed to provide) compost is full of a great many micronutrients, such as manganese, boron, sodium, zinc, cobalt, copper, iodine, molybdenum and iron. The more varied the materials you use to make your compost the more nutrients you will have in the finished product.
But there is more to compost than the nutrients. Compost also is rich in organic material which, when added to your soil, binds with the soil particles to for small aggregates, or crumbs. This improves soil health by giving the soil good structure, meaning it is able to hold oxygen and moisture which makes these vital elements available to the roots of your plants whenever they need it.
Compost also contains microorganisms and other valuable larger creatures, such as earthworms and insects. These all work together to build better soil. Compost is teeming with life. When added to dead soil the resultant product is a vibrant growing environment! Compost can even protect plants from toxins, such as lead and cadmium, by binding with them so they can’t be absorbed into the roots. Compost is truly an amazing substance!