Compost is the best food you can give to the soil in your organic garden! Imagine a diet of just plain water. Or, how about a diet of water and tasteless nutritional powder? Yuck! It would not leave you satisfied, healthy, or full. A diet like that doesn’t work for soil, either. The only thing that truly feeds and satisfies the soil is more soil – in the form of compost.
Compost is recreating what nature does when people aren’t around to harvest and clean up…
When leaves fall in the forest or grasses die back in the prairie, they act as mulch; then, as they decompose, they become rich, dark, fluffy soil. Rich, dark, fluffy soil is every gardener’s dream. It is easy to plant in and plants thrive in it.
Compost is Worth Making
Making compost is probably the single most important thing you can do for your organic garden. The success of your garden depends on your soil. The health of your soil depends on the compost you give it. Compost makes the soil loose, porous and increases the amount of water it can hold. By adding compost to your soil, you won’t need to water your plants as often. You could vacation for a week or so without worrying that you’ll come back to a baked garden.
Compost also releases nutrients slowly into the soil, giving plants a steady, balanced diet to keep them growing strong. In spring, when plants are small, compost doles out nutrients slowly. Later, as the soil warms up and plant growth accelerates, nutrients are released at a faster rate. This is because the soil microorganisms that release the nutrients from compost work harder as the temperature rises.
As compost breaks down into humus, it improves the soil’s ability to store nutrients. So if you amend your soil regularly with compost, plant nutrients can build up over time to the point that the soil needs little fertilizer of any kind for several years.
Depending on what ingredients went into the compost, a given batch can be high or low in certain elements. The greater the variety of materials you use to make your compost, the greater the variety of nutrients it will contain.
That includes both the major plant nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) and the micronutrients (such as iron, manganese, and boron).
There’s even evidence that adding compost to your soil can protect plans from disease. Here are some examples of what it can do for your garden.
- Florida studies have shown that compost can protect pepper plants from phytophthora root rot; dramatically reduce damping-off (a disease that cause seedlings to keel over and die) and reduce early blight and root-knot nematode damage.
- California researches used compost to eliminate brown rot on peaches (a fungal disease that causes fruit to turn brown and soft). Fruit from the compost – treated orchard had no brown rot. 24 percent of the fruit from a neighboring orchard (treated with chemical fungicides) did have it.
- A New York country club uses compost to combat turf diseases and was able to cut its fungicide use 97 percent after just 3 years.
- Compost tea – the liquid produced by steeping compost in water – has been found to prevent mildew on plants.