Most of us have learned that composting is beneficial to gardening, but what are the basic benefits of composting, and how does compost help? What are the advantages of garden compost?
Is It Beneficial to Use Garden Compost?
Gardening with compost can be beneficial in a variety of ways. Simply put, using compost improves soil quality by allowing it to absorb more oxygen, nutrients, and moisture, resulting in healthier, more thriving plants.
Furthermore, by making and using compost, you are recycling rather than adding to solid waste landfills. So, how does compost aid in the nutrient, aeration, and hydration of the soil medium? Composting benefits the environment in the following ways:
Compost’s Contribution to Soil Structure
The soil composition refers to how inorganic elements like sand, silt, and clay combine with organics like compost and humus to form a cohesive whole. They combine to form aggregates, which are loosely connected particles held together by compost and earthworms. It results in a “crumbly” textured soil that is easier to work with and is suitable for drainage and water retention. This lighter soil also makes it easier for tender young roots to reach the earth. The addition of compost, especially to heavily clayed or excessively sandy soils, will result in a healthier overall substructure that allows air to circulate.
Another benefit of compost is that it helps to avoid erosion. Compost loosens tightly bound particles in clay or silt, making it easier for roots to spread and preventing erosion. Compost, in addition to preventing erosion, improves the soil’s ability to absorb water and reduce runoff by promoting safe root systems. Soil’s water holding capacity would quadruple with a 5% rise in organic content. By avoiding emissions from fertilizer, pesticides, and general soil runoff, minimizing water runoff helps to protect our waters.
Compost’s Contribution to Nutrient Retention
Compost contributes nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to the soil and micronutrients, including manganese, copper, iron, and zinc. These micronutrients are important contributors to a plant’s overall health, even though they are only needed in small quantities. Compost is an additional benefit to your plants’ health because commercial fertilizers are often deficient in micronutrients.
Some materials break down more quickly than others as manure rots, effectively converting them into a slow-release fertilizer. The more diverse the ingredients in the compost, the wider the range of nutrients released. Compost can also neutralize both acidic and alkaline soils, bringing the pH levels to an optimal range for plant nutrient absorption.
Earthworms, centipedes, sowbugs, redworms, and other insects are attracted to a compost-amended garden. Their existence demonstrates that organic material is always breaking down as it moves through their digestive tracts, indicating a healthy ecosystem. The fact that these tiny creatures are burrowing into the ground also helps to aerate the soil.
Additional Benefits of Composting
Compost-amended gardens often have fewer pest problems and are more disease resistant without the use of pesticides. Compost made primarily of leaves is effective against nematodes, and compost applied to grass has been shown to suppress various fungal diseases.
Finally, composting saves money by reducing the amount of money spent on garbage collection, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and other similar expenses. Using compost in the garden is a win-win situation all around.