Compost – Properties, Advantages and Usage

In this article, we will try to help you understand about composting, its advantages, and usage techniques.

Compost has been made by man for ages from a variety of waste materials for the purpose of fertilizing his plants. The Greek poet Homer wrote in the 8th century BC of a fragrant pile of manure maturing in Odysseus’ farmyard and being afterward strewn on the fields.

Nevertheless, why is compost so valuable to humans that it’s frequently dubbed “black gold” by gardeners? This page will teach you more about compost’s history, composition, and uses.

What is Compost

Compost is made up of decomposed organic matter that has gone through the decaying process. Air-breathing microbes decompose organic matter before it begins to degrade. These break down organic material in such a way that carbon dioxide gas escapes into the atmosphere.

  • Compost is humus made from decayed organic matter.
  • Various humus source sources are referred to as “compost,” which is short for “composting.”
  • Compost is made up of humus molecules and clay particles, both of which are present in the form of visible flakes.
  • Composting releases carbon dioxide as microorganisms consume carbon molecules in the compost.

The beginning components gradually decompose into smaller and smaller pieces until they are reduced to single molecules or atoms. In the “humification” process – the creation of humus – these “building blocks” are transformed into something entirely different: humic acids (or “humus molecules”).

Compost or humus is made up of visible crumbs and flakes that are chemically bonded with clay particles. Compost and humus have many similarities, but there are some important differences as well. As a matter of fact, the word “compost” derives from the Latin word compositum, meaning something like “that which is put together.”

Composter – i.e., man – uses a variety of beginning materials for the purposeful creation of humus, hence the name. As a result, compost is a kind of humus. When compared to compost, humus is created by nature and is not the same thing.

What is Compost matter made up of

Compostable trash contains carbon compounds in various amounts, just like organic matter such as animals, plants, fungus, and even algae. Plant cell walls, for example, are mostly made up of cellulose, hemicellulose, and pectin.

Carbon compounds which also have oxygen and hydrogen attached and are connected at the molecular level to create long, stable chains are all carbs. Cell walls are digested by microbes in the same way we digest carbs like bread. The carbon molecules within are transformed to energy during cellular respiration, and the carbon is released along with water as CO2 as a byproduct.

Properties of Compost material

Compost, in general, can be described as either coarse and fibrous or brownish and crumbly, depending on the degree of decomposition. It also has a pleasant odor that is typically described as “woody.” When compared to peat and sand, it weighs nearly twice as much.

It has many medium-sized pores, which help with soil aeration and water balance when applied to the soil. It might be acidic, neutral, or even mildly alkaline, depending on the ingredients. The nutrient content might be either high or extremely low depending on the starting components and the ripening phase.

Phosphorus and potassium are two of the most important plant nutrients that can be found in a well-balanced ratio, but this is not always the case. In most cases, compost has all of the trace nutrients plants require. Composted fertilization can have a wide range of effects on soil and plants.

  • Depending on the beginning components and degree of decaying, compost has different qualities.
  • Is fibrous and gritty, brownish-crumbly, or a combination of the two.
  • There’s a nice, woodsy odor.
  • Lighter than sand, but heavier than peat.
  • Compost is well-balanced in terms of water and air because of the presence of many medium-sized pores.
  • From very low to 50% by volume, the nutrient content ranges in pH from 6.2 to 8.4.
  • Phosphorus and potassium are abundant, while nitrogen is rare. Trace nutrients are also present.
  • Fertilizer for plants or soil conditioner; can do both at the same time.

The long-term benefits of a mature, nutrient-poor green compost are due to an increase in humus content, whereas a young, nutrient-rich organic compost is more useful for plant fertilization since it releases numerous nutrients but does not raise humus content in the soil. If you’re curious about compost’s capabilities as a fertilizer, check out this in-depth piece.

Degree of Decomposition or Rotting of Compost

Compost’s resistance to destruction by microorganisms can be gauged by its degree of rotting. When compost is added to the soil, degradation occurs at varied rates depending on the degree of rotting. As the decomposition progresses and the compost matures, the stability grows but the ability to release nutrients declines.

Humification explains why this is the case. To put it another way, it creates new, stable humus molecules from the decomposed organic building blocks. Fresh compost has a rotting degree of 2 or 3, whereas finished compost has a rotting degree of 4 or 5. Composting raw material has the lowest rotting degree, which is 1.

Where does Compost come from

Compost, as previously mentioned, is a synthetic form of humus. There are numerous natural places where organic waste and bacteria combine to make humus using the methods mentioned above.

As a general guideline, it’s best to use this formula – If the microbes’ dwelling conditions aren’t perfect, a lot more humus is created than nutrients are used up. Now we know why forests and bogs have such thick humus layers: Microorganisms can’t survive in these conditions because the soil is either too acidic or too damp.

  • A wide variety of natural areas produce humus, but it may also be found in your yard as planting soil, with the finest example being peat.
  • Compost is usually the result of the work of innumerable microorganisms of various kinds.
  • Compost is available for purchase at recycling centers or can be made at home in a compost pile.
  • Bio-fertilizer or compost tea is made to increase the number of helpful microorganisms before being added to soil or compost. However, little is known about the effect or how it works.

Besides, there are numerous other places where humus can grow. If you know how to handle humus-promoting circumstances in your garden, you can facilitate humification there as well. In our special post, you’ll learn how to gradually improve your garden soil’s humus content without adding any additional humus.

Compost worms and other composters

Composting is a biological process, not just a mechanical or chemical one, as you’ve undoubtedly already gathered. The soil flora and fauna work together to accomplish this. Compost, in particular, has a high density of organisms per volume due to the fact that it provides a veritable feast for these microbes.

Compost contains 10 kgs of live organisms each cubic meter! These organisms include bacteria, fungus, and protozoa such as nematodes and mites, as well as a wide range of earthworms, roundworms, woodlice, snails and other invertebrates such as centipedes and centipede-like species.

The flora and fauna composition can vary depending on the local conditions. They are in charge of organic pollutant degradation, humification, chemical change, mixing, and decomposition. Naturally, they’re not doing it for our amusement. Instead, they’re flocking here to feed and multiply when they discover the perfect habitat.

Among these are the existence of organic matter, adequate moisture and oxygen, a pH that is just acidic or just alkaline, and temperatures that are as high as possible. They will either perish or migrate if the organic matter is completely transformed to humus. To learn more about compost worms or worm composting, take a look at this special essay we wrote on the subject.

Effective Microorganisms (EM)

For composting, Bokashi fermentation, and sewage treatment plants, several commercial combinations of common microorganisms (for example, yeast fungus and bacteria) which are designed to speed up metabolic processes by adding them to compost.

The powdered combinations are prepared by mixing them with a sugar solution and then heating them for an extended period of time. Because they may transform from their initial inert, permanent forms into active microorganisms and reproduce rapidly when exposed to the sugar solution, these bacteria are thus referred to as “activated”. They’re then sprayed on top of the sugar water-treated substance.

Unfortunately, the impact of EM treatment has yet to be demonstrated; nonetheless, there are legitimate uncertainties as to whether the reported outcomes are indeed caused by the microbes or are merely due to the sugar solution. As a result, we are unable to make a recommendation for using EM in composting that is supported by the scientific community.

Compost from recycling yards

Composted green trash and organic waste sold at recycling plants is composted. Nutrient-rich and nutrient-poor materials are either composted together or sold separately depending on the selection. Compost made from green trash has fewer nutrients than compost made from organic materials.

Composting systems come in all shapes and sizes, some of which process enormous amounts of compost. Composting methods range from traditional windrows to so-called “moving windrows,” which are permanently relocated, to pressure-ventilated decomposition towers or drums with contents of up to 1,000 cubic meters, which dynamically circulate the compost.

These systems aren’t used in every recycling facility; they’re only found in places where a large amount of waste needs to be processed swiftly. If you’re interested in learning more about the fertilizing properties of compost from a recycling or reuse materials yard, check out this article. Also, if you’re interested in learning more about where to get compost, check out this linked article.

Hot and cold rotting or decomposition tips

If a large amount of compost is produced all at once, such as in recycling yards, a new windrow, i.e. a compost pile, is constructed all at once. There are no layers in a bioreactor, therefore the degradation takes place all at once rather than layer by layer.

The bacterias’ metabolic operations generate a significant amount of heat. Large compost heaps also have their own built-in insulation, resulting in core temperatures of 60 to 80 degrees Celsius. The vigorous rotting period lasts for several weeks, therefore turning the container repeatedly can generate significant heat.

Pathogens and weed seeds are destroyed in this manner, resulting in sterility in the compost. Because it is placed in layers, a private compost pile only achieves considerably lower temperatures and, as a result, can transport seeds and pathogens associated with plant diseases.

Making Your Own Compost

Humus is always forming in nature even without your help. In order to manufacture your own high-quality organic fertilizer or soil conditioner, you can use the underlying techniques, which will free up space in your organic or residual waste disposal container.

We’ve condensed the process of making compost into a few short sentences. This particular page has all the information you’ll need to properly compost as well.

  • Composter selection: Rolling composter, fast composter, or worm bin are all options for composting.
  • Decide on a good location: The garden is in the open and loose, good soil, and it is partially shaded.
  • Composting should be done as soon as possible. Alternately stack coarse, firm compost material with nutrient-rich soft compost material. It’s possible that lime or nitrogen fertilizer will have to be used.
  • When used sparingly, compost accelerators and starters will have the same impact as compost tea and finished compost.
  • Either carefully layer the compost or, if necessary and practicable, turn it once a year to provide adequate mixing and aeration of the soil.
  • Compost can be used as a plant fertilizer in four to eight weeks under ideal conditions. After at least six months of composting, you will have a finished product with beneficial benefits for both the soil and fertilization. It takes two to three years for compost to reach maturity, at which point it can begin to improve the soil.

Compost Tea

In the same way that the above-mentioned effective microorganisms (EM) are activated, compost tea is made. However, the microbes used in this experiment were not obtained from a store-bought blend, but rather from a few grams of compost. Compost is dissolved in water, sugar or syrup is added, and the mixture is then heated to 25°C for about a day.

You need enough oxygen supply, which is provided by introducing air or using a stirring system. The microbes in the compost should multiply rapidly in the broth, given the conditions. The soil or compost can then be inoculated to help encourage biological activity in the area.

Compost tea spraying is also advised in various Internet forums, but the intended purpose for the plants is rarely or only very superficially discussed in this way. As a result, soil-dwelling microorganisms cannot colonize a plant and will not do so on their own, which makes a beneficial effect appear doubtful at first glance.

When combined with other organic materials (such as mulch), it can be used as a compost starter and to boost microbial activity in planting areas. Soil with minimal biological activity, such as newly created composts, should be avoided. It’s debatable whether or not applying the compost will have any less of an impact.

Instructions to Prepare Compost Tea

  1. Fill a clean container with 100 liters of rain or well water (for example, a rain barrel). It’s best to use distilled or filtered water, however tap water should be allowed to stand for at least seven days before using.
  2. To achieve a temperature of around 25 °C, use an immersion heater (100-150 W).
  3. Prepare the water by dissolving 500 grams of sugar beet syrup in it, then adding 250 grams of rock flour and 500 grammes of compost.
  4. Aerator pump should be activated with a bubbler to ensure proper oxygenation of the pond.
  5. For soil treatment, let it sit for 12 to 18 hours before draining and dilution (1:5 ratio for soil treatment, 1:1 for compost treatment) to be applied within four hours. If necessary, filter before dilution.
  6. Clean the compost tea garbage container.

Compost tea and EM have still not been demonstrated to be effective beyond a reasonable doubt by many commercial agriculture and waste management organizations, thus they are not widely used just yet. Despite this, larger-scale production products for businesses are already on the market.

As a result, it should only be considered a complementary method for the time being. Whatever the case may be, putting compost to the soil has been shown effective in both private and scientific settings for many years.

How to Properly Use Compost for Best Results

Compost has a wide range of positive effects on the health of the soil and the growth of plants. When using compost, keep in mind that it refers to a wide range of materials that have rotted and humified to differing degrees, thus its qualities will vary. The following are some possible uses for this composting technique:

  • Utilization of finished compost as a plant and soil fertilizer.
  • Applying fresh compost as mulch and fertilizer.
  • Compost that has been finished or matured can be spread flat on the ground to increase the quality of the soil.
  • Make your own potting soil by combining it with soil or other materials.
  • Compost is beneficial to both lawns and woody plants.

Various types of compost, each with a different set of qualities, can be used in different parts of the world. This particular article on the fertilizing characteristics of compost provides in-depth guidance on compost use.

Compost Usage in Agriculture

It’s possible to utilize compost in agriculture, too. Studies have shown that composting improves soil health and production. One should ponder why so little “black gold” winds up in pastures and fields.

The fertilization records of farmers, nurseries, and (fruit) tree nurseries must be kept. Nutrient inputs are specifically tracked and double-checked. The following are the fertilizer requirements determined by agricultural operations.

  • Due to harvested crops, there have been withdrawals.
  • The soil’s nitrogen content.
  • Soil organic matter serves as a source of nitrogen.
  • Nitrogen is added to previous planting cultures’ harvest residues as a nitrogen source.
  • Previously applied green manures provide nitrogen.
  • Organic fertilizers applied in the prior three years provided the nitrogen needed.

Using this list, we may compare our current fertilization to the crop’s needs, and make adjustments as necessary. The “nutrient comparison” compares nitrogen inputs and nitrogen outflows on an annual basis, and the two should be as equal as feasible or, at the very least, not exceed the given limit values.

Composting has a slew of advantages as you can see. You can also make your own compost soil by adding a few additional components to the recipe. You may learn how to make your own compost-based planting soils in our special article.