Compost! – Part 1 of 2
For you veteran gardeners out there, this may be a little repetitious but for all you newcomers to the garden scene, it is one of those topics that you can’t avoid. I guess it’s not that you can’t avoid it, you most certainly can, but you shouldn’t.
Whether you have your own composter or you choose to buy it from your favourite garden center, compost is one of the most important components in a great looking garden. Not only does it help your plant grow above the soil, it works wonders below it as well.
What is Compost?
In simplified terms, compost is organic matter that has decomposed. When I say “organic”, I’m not talking in terms of pesticides but rather in terms of its composition – plant matter for the most part. Meat is rarely composted by homeowners as it tends to rot and mould creating off-putting odours.
As the organic material breaks down, it forms humus (not hummus, be careful!). If you are buying compost, it should have a light, fluffy texture and should not smell.
The nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (those little numbers on fertilizer bags) are primary macronutrients. Your plants use these in higher quantities than any other nutrients. Calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are also macronutrients but are considered secondary since plants use them in smaller quantities. Soil usually lacks the primary macronutrients but not the secondary ones.
Boron, chloride, copper, iron, molybdenum, and zinc are considered micronutrients because they are needed in such small quantities. Often called trace elements, soil is rarely lacking these nutrients.
Compost is the most natural way to add much needed mirco- and macro-nutrients to your plants. Plants need vitamins and minerals just as you and I do. Our bodies absorb these nutrients from the foods we eat; plants use their roots to do the same thing.
So there are the basics behind compost. How one goes about starting a composter and keeping it healthy is a whole other story which I will share with you next week. Stay tuned!