Sooner or later, anyone interested in gardening or just plain green activities is going to come along the term "compost."
What's the big deal about compost? Why is compost considered such an important element in any successful garden? Can't you just throw some high-performance liquid fertilizer on your plants and call it a day?
Compost Versus Chemical Fertilizers
The difference between using a chemical fertilizer on your garden and using compost (whether home-grown or store-bought) is the difference between eating a bowl of Captain Crunch and a multivitamin for breakfast or eating a healthy, well-balanced breakfast from fresh, natural ingredients. Either way, you're getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals, but in the long run you're definitely going to benefit from regularly choosing the second option.
Plants experience a quick jump in growth when you use chemical fertilizers on them. There is a noticable growth spurt, much like with a bodybuilder who starts using steroids for the first time. Like the bodybuilder, however, the naturally robust good health that comes from doing things the right way - like when a plant is provided with high-quality compost over an extended period of time - just isn't there.
Compost contains all the major nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) that plants need to thrive, and it delivers those nutrients in such a way that plants absorb it easily and quickly - like a mother's breastmilk for a baby. Compost also contains excellent amounts of minor and trace elements that plants need for healthy growth. Those elements, combined with the billions of bacteria, yeast microorganisms, a variety of fungi and other organisms that live in healthy soil, continue to break down organic and inorganic matter in the compost and in the soil around the plants. All that activity results in the long-term and steady feeding of vital nutrients to your plants.
It isn't just the chemical composition of compost that makes it so desirable to gardeners. Compost, with its loose and fluffy, cake-flourlike texture, improves the structure of any soil that it is added to. Compost increases the drainage of soils with a high clay content and binds together soils with a high sand content that otherwise would have a difficult time retaining moisture.
How Long Does Composting Take?
Someone who is new to the idea of composting might avoid it just because they think it's more complicated or harder than it really is.
The reality of composting is that it's something that will happen whether a human is involved or not. In fact, when people are gone from this earth, composting will still happen every day. Boiled away to it's essence, composting is simply the natural process of rotting, and that's not going away anytime soon.
Take the laziest gardener in the world. If he (or she) just threw all their garden waste, kitchen scraps, grass clippings and autumn leaves into a big pile in the backyard and left it, there would be a good amount of quality, usable compost hidden inside that pile after about a year and a half. If that gardener was a little less lazy and turned the pile a few times, or used a compost tumbler instead of just letting the composting material sit there, the whole composting process speeds up considerably. According to research, in fact, it is entirely possible to create finished compost - compost that is so completely broken down that it's impossible to tell the component parts apart - in as few as 10 days.
Most gardeners, using a compost pile or bin, will end up with a good amount of finished compost every three or four weeks. With a compost tumbler, used correctly, that stretch of time can be reduced considerably, sometimes with compost produced in as little as 14 days or so. When you consider how much compost costs when you buy it at Lowes or Home Depot, over a growing season, composting with either a compost tumbler or a compost bin, can provide a lot of free fertilizer that mankind has been unable to duplicate chemically.
If You're Not Using Compost - You're Missing Out
Whether you're growing ornamentals or vegetables, herbs or berries, good-quality compost will make your plants healthier and stronger. Compost will increase the flowering of your plants and will make your fruit larger and tastier, more so than any other substance that you can give them. All-natural compost is simply the best thing you can do for or put into your garden.