What is Compost?

May 5, 2017

Composting is a free and natural way to recycle decomposed organic material and turn it into a nutrient rich soil. Organic material can range from leaves to grass clippings, and even food scraps from your kitchen. By composting, you are returning nutrients back into the soil to create a rich dark brown crumbly material also known as “Black Gold.”

What Are the Benefits of Compost?

When compost is added to the soil during planting season, it promotes a slow-release source of nutrients that aids plant growth for longer periods of time. Vegetables are able to feed themselves more efficiently and are able to stand up to common diseases. It may even improve their flavor and nutrition! Composting helps the soil retain its moisture making it less likely for your plants to dry up in the summer sun.

Other common benefits:

  • Introduces beneficial organisms to help aerate and break down the soil
  • Great alternative to chemical fertilizers
  • Diverts waste from landfills
  • Saves you money – using material from in and around your own home means you don’t have to buy bagged soil
  • Improves your own diet by creating more nutrient rich plants
  • Can be used as an education tool for children to learn about nature and life cycles

What is the Difference Between Compost and Fertilizer?

The difference between compost and fertilizer is that compost feeds the soil and fertilizer feeds the plants. Although fertilizer can add to the soil’s nutrient supply, the ingredients are intended to help fast-growing plants. Fertilizers can also throw off the soil’s chemistry, but organic fertilizers can be more friendly and allow both fertilizer and compost to work well together.

How to Make Compost

There are a few different ways to make a compost pile. You can make a free-standing heap, buy a ready-made compost bin, or build your own out of lumber and wire-mesh fencing. Although, if most of your compost materials come from the kitchen, consider using an enclosed bin to avoid any unwanted animals. A compost pile can be made any time of year but the Fall tends to provide a lot of materials in the form of leaves. Here are the basic steps in starting your own compost:

  1. First, start on the bare earth. This will allow worms and other organisms to aerate the compost. Find a plot of earth that is at least three feet by three feet in size.
  2. Lay twigs and straw a few inches deep to help with drainage.
  3. Alternate between layers of browns/greens (or dry/moist) keeping it three parts “brown” materials and one part “green” materials. Carbon-rich brown materials are leaves, pine needles, straw, newspapers, cardboard, and sawdust. Carbon-rich green materials are kitchen waste, grass clippings (untreated), coffee grounds and manure. You want your pile at least three feet high.
  4. Add manure if you like. More specifically green manure (clover, buckwheat, wheatgrass and grass clippings). This can help speed up the composting process. Do not use manure from carnivores like dogs or cats.
  5. Occasionally add water to keep the pile moist. Or let the rain do some of the work.
  6. Turn the compost with a fork every few weeks to help aerate the pile. Or buy a “tumbler” composter that can be turned via a handle.
  7. Keep your pile covered. Covering the pile helps keeps in the moisture and heat as well as keeping it from being soaked in a hard rain.
  8. Let your compost pile sit for at least three months. Depending on how much material is added and how often it is turned, a compost can take anywhere from three months to a year to produce a rich dark brown soil that is ready to use.

Composting can be a process that requires some patience, but the results it can produce in a garden or lawn are well worth the wait. If you have any questions about your composting project, call the experts at Reddi Lawn Care at 316-858-0736.

Resources found on our website are provided as general guidelines, and Reddi Industries does not assume any liability resulting from the provided information.

Pouring food scraps into a compost pile.