By Jill Fletcher
What is Compost?
Compost is decayed organic material used as a plant fertilizer. To decay or decompose is when organic matter breaks down physically and chemically by bacterial or fungal action. The prefix de- means to remove or undo. Something that is composed is made up of more than one part. So to decompose is to undo all the parts.
Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 30 percent of what we throw away, and could be composted instead. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills and benefits the environment.
Compost can be made on a large scale or made in a backyard or even an apartment building. Whether you purchase the compost of make your own the reward is boundless.
Benefits of Compost
- Can improve soil structure.
- Aids in necessary microbial activity in the soil.
- Attracts beneficial insects such as earthworms.
- Can suppress several soil borne diseases.
- Enriches soil, helping retain moisture.
- Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
- Encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus; a rich nutrient-filled material.
- Improves water retention
There are 5 important components to making effective compost.
- Nutrient Balance
Composting, or controlled decomposition, requires a proper balance of green and brown organic Green organic material can include grass clippings, food scraps, or manure, which contain large amounts of nitrogen. Brown organic materials includes dry leaves, wood chips, or branches, which contain large amounts of carbon, but little nitrogen. Obtaining the right nutrient mix requires experimentation and patience. It is part of the art and science of composting.
- Particle Size
Grinding, chipping, and shredding material increases the surface area on which microorganisms can feed. Smaller particles also produce a more homogeneous compost mixture and improve pile insulation to help maintain optimum temperatures. If the particles are too small they might prevent air from flowing freely through the pile.
- Moisture Content
Microorganisms living in a compost pile need enough moisture to survive. Water is the key element that helps transport substances within the compost pile and makes the nutrients in organic material accessible to the microbes. Organic material contains some moisture in varying amounts, but moisture also might come in the form of rainfall or intentional watering.
- Oxygen Flow
Turning the pile, placing the pile on a series of pipes, or including bulking agents such as wood chips and shredded newspaper all help aerate the pile. Aerating the pile allows decomposition to occur at a faster rate than anaerobic conditions. Care must be taken to not provide too much oxygen, which can dry out the pile and impede the composting process.
Microorganisms require a certain temperature range for optimal activity. Certain temperatures promote rapid decomposition and destroy pathogens and weed seeds. Microbial activity can raise the temperature of the pile’s core up to 140° Controlling the previous four factors can bring about the proper temperature.
To find out more about where you can recycle green waste and purchase compost visit:
Trans Jordan Landfill
10473 South Bacchus Hwy, South Jordan
Salt Lake Solid Waste Management Facility
6030 W. California Ave. SLC
To find out more about home composting visit: https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home