Gardening

Compost is a hot topic. If you have been reading the latest gardening articles or watching your favorite TV gardening show, you probably have noticed the popularity of this topic.

Most gardeners agree that compost is good for the garden. By why is it good? And how should it be applied.

Compost is what is left of organic matter after microbes have thoroughly decomposed it.

Simply put, it is decayed organic matter.

Through the composting process, plant and animal materials are broken down into smaller particles. The final product has an organic-matter contest around 35 percent to 45 percent and resembles potting media.

Organic fertilizer

Generally speaking, organic fertilizers come from plants or animals that took up these nutrients, or fertilizer elements, and chemically bound them in their tissues and byproducts.

Because they are integrated into complex organic molecules, the plant nutrients in organic fertilizers are in relatively low concentrations.

Nutrient content

The nutrient content of compost varies with the materials composted and the specific composting process. Generally, though, it falls within these ranges: nitrogen, 1 percent to 2 percent; phosphorus, 0.2 percent to 1 percent; potassium, 0.5 percent to 1.5 percent; and calcium, 0.05 percent to 2 percent.

Compost, though, does more for the garden than just provide organic fertilizer. It also helps:

  • Increase the soil’s capacity to hold water and nutrients.
  • Reduce soil compaction, allowing more air and water to move among soil particles.
  • Improve the soil’s tilth, or structure, making it easier for roots to grow and thrive there.

How much, when

Eight to 10 weeks before you plant, broadcast compost over the garden, any amount is helpful. But for best results, initially apply 20 to 30 pounds of compost per 100 square feet of garden soil. Scatter it uniformly over the entire garden.