Everyone knows that using compost in the garden is a good thing, but do you know what the benefits are and why this is so? There are many advantages to using compost but in simple terms this natural wonder will:
Compost helps to improve your gardens soil quality by modifying the structure of any type of soil. Should you have a clay soil the organics of the compost will coalesce with the inorganic elements of the clay. Together they will create aggregates composed of loosely coalesced particles bound by the compost. This will create a 'crumbly' textured soil that that has better drainage and water retention and is easier to work. The crumbly texture allows plant roots to more easily penetrate the soil while the compost also provides nutrients for the plant. It will also provide a better substructure allowing air to circulate more freely to the roots. If you have a sandy soil the compost will help retain moisture and provide nutrients to your plants.
Another benefit in the use of compost is the prevention of erosion. The compost will loosen the tightly bound particles in clays and silts allowing plant roots to spread more easily which helps hold the soil together and prevents erosion. It is estimated that a 5% increase in organic matter to your soil will quadruple the water holding capacity of the soil.
As the compost rots, nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, copper, iron and zinc are all released into the soil. These nutrients are important to the growth and development of healthy plants. Most commercial fertilisers lack the micro nutrients such as manganese, copper, iron & zinc so the compost serves as an excellent, all round, organic fertiliser.
Some materials in the compost will break down faster than others which makes the compost an effective slow release fertiliser. A good tip is to vary the ingredients of the compost as generally, the greater the number of ingredients in the compost, the greater the variety of nutrients that will be released.
The addition of compost to your soil will also aid in neutralising both acidic and alkaline soils bring the pH levels to a better range for nutrient absorption by the plants.
A by-product of adding compost to your soil is the attraction of earthworms to the area. The presence of earthworms indicates that the organic matter is breaking down as it passes through their digestive systems helping to accelerate the release of nutrients to the plants. As if all that wasn't enough, as the earthworms burrow through the soil they also aerate it which is beneficial to the plants.
Gardens that have had compost added to improve the soil tend to have fewer pest problems thereby enabling a reduction in the use of pesticides. Studies have shown that compost that is mainly leaf-based can be very effective against nematodes and compost applied to grasses can suppress a number of fungal diseases.
As a final comment, it is easy to see that apart from helping your plants, the use of compost is cost-effective and environmentally responsible as it reduces the the amount of waste going to landfill, reduces or eliminates the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Using compost in your garden is undeniably a win-win situation for both the gardener, the garden and the environment.