Use of compostCompost is ready for use when the temperature
in the pile drops to
the temperature of the
surrounding air. Other
- It smells earthyónot sour, putrid or like
- It no longer heats up after turned or watered
- It looks like dark soil
- Itís crumbly, and doesnít have identifiable
food items, leaves or grass.
The pH is usually around 7.5, and it will
have a C:N ratio ranging from 10:1 to 20:1.
Planting in compost before it is finished
could damage plants. Undecayed carbon materials
as wood chips or leaves uses nitrogen from
the soil to continue decomposing, robbing
it from the plants you grow. Undecayed nitrogen
materials can harbor pests and diseases.
Immature compost can introduce weed seeds
and root-damaging organic acids.
Compost can be used in many ways in the garden.
Coarse, semi-decayed woody material is suitable
as mulch to put on top of the soil around
the plants. It can be used as mulch around
trees and shrubs, to keep the moisture in,
to prevent weeds from growing around trees
and shrubs. The decayed material is good
for digging into the soil together with commercial
fertilizers at preparation time.
It can be used for installing new lawns.
A fine-screened layer can be used for a top
dressing on established lawns. It can be
used in the planting areas of landscapes.
It should be used extensively in vegetable
gardens to improve the organic matter content
in the soil. It can be used for houseplants,
for starting seeds in planting beds or flats,
or made into a compost tea for watering plants.
Compost is also useful for erosion control.
Erosion often is the end result of low soil
fertility. Compost and the humus it contains
can actually bind to the soil, building a
good structure than encourages optimum fertility
and erosion resistance. Studies have shown
that a layer of compost works much better
along newly planted hillsides beside highways
than straw that was traditionally used.
An exciting new use for compost is bioremediation.
Many things can contaminate surface waters,
soils and reservoirs. Using compost can often
restore these. The microorganisms in compost
can sequester or break down contaminants
in water or soil. Contaminates are digested,
metabolized and transformed into humus and
inert byproducts such as carbon dioxide,
water and salts. Compost bioremediation is
effective in degrading or altering chlorinated
and nonclorinated hydrocarbons, wood preserving
chemicals, solvents, heavy metals, pesticides,
petroleum products and explosives.