Definition of Compost

What Is Compost?

Through the process of decomposition, natural systems break down organic matter, including both animal and plant materials, creating what we know as compost. This is nature’s way of recycling organic waste into a rich, dark brown material that nourishes soil and plants and aids in growing strong, healthy plants and foods.

All composting systems are comprised of the same four basic components:

  • Carbon: Brown and dry ingredients such as dry leaves, newspapers, etc
  • Nitrogen: Green materials including grass clippings, food waste, and the like
  • Oxygen: Needed to oxidize carbon and aid in the process of decomposition
  • Water: Necessary to maintain microbial activity and proper aerobic conditions

There are many other actors in the decomposition process that are necessary to break down organic matter efficiently, including bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, protozoa, and rotifers. Working together in a vibrant, active community, these organisms complement each others’ work as they break down organic matter and create compost.

Most composting is done in backyards and on farms in compost piles and bins. But there are several alternate styles used today to create compost depending on the types of organic matter being process, the location in which they’re created, and the desired end result:

  • Vermicompost: Using worms to aid in speedier breakdown of the waste
  • Compost tea: To turn finished compost into a liquid fertilizer
  • Bokashi: Making use of a starter culture containing microorganisms for intensive composting

Once finished, there are many uses for compost in landscaping, in farming and agriculture, for home gardens, and in horticulture, including:

  • As a fertilizer, compost adds vital nutrients and minerals for growing crops and vibrant plants
  • As a natural pesticide, since biodynamic living soils are much better at fending off natural predators and pests
  • For erosion control as well as land and stream reclamation and wetland construction
  • As mulch for reducing evaporation, weed growth, temperature fluctuations, and so on

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