Benefits of Compost that May Surprise You!
The benefits of compost go well beyond just adding organic fertilizer to your garden. We cover 17 compost benefits that may surprise you.
When a compost is applied to soil, it initiates a cascade of changes in soil physical, chemical, and biological properties.
Compost contains more than just organic matter. Attached to the many particles are millions (if not billions) of tiny microbes that do the legwork for improving soil conditions. Bacteria and fungi are the foundation for the soil food web and they are the heavy lifters compost generally gets the credit for.
1. Produce Bigger Harvests: Compost Benefits
Improves the health of the plants by providing and enhancing the update of major plant nutrients and trace minerals. Compost contains macro and micronutrients mostly absent in synthetic fertilizers such as Miracle Grow. Compost acts a slow release fertilizer, releasing nutrients when the plants need it over the season and throughout the years.
The nutrient value of compost occur over a long period of time as the organic matter in compost decays, releasing nutrients, with the help of mycorrhizal fungi and other beneficial soil microbes.
2. Improves the Nutritional Quality of Foods
Compost contains a full spectrum of essential plant nutrients. Compost bacteria break down organics into nutrients more available to plants. Some soil bacteria convert nitrogen from the air into a plant available nutrient.
3. Better Seed Germination: Compost Benefits
Organic matter acts by providing a suitable physical medium for seed germination, as well as preventing them from drying out due to compost’s high water holding capacity.
4. Feeds Soil Organisms
Soil organisms work as part of the soil food web, beginning with bacteria and fungi, then moving up the tropic scale to include the familiar earthworms. The organisms feed on compost, and ultimately assists plants in finding water and releasing nutrients vital for plant growth.
5. More Resistant to Plant Diseases
Compost organisms (fungi and bacteria) can restrict the activity of potential pathogens (through enzyme stabilization), as disease are generally bound to humic substances. Soil microbes flourish that can assist in strengthening plant health and are able to more naturally defend against pathogens.
The addition of compost may suppress diseases and harmful pests that can be present in dead, impaired or poor soils.
6. Retains Minerals & Nutrients in Soil
Nutrients and minerals are attached to the surface of the compost, particularly in the process of building a compost pile, allowing the capture and retention of minerals the plants need. This prevents them from moving down deeper into the soil and potentially intercepting and contaminating groundwater. Compost improves soil structure, making soil less likely to erode.
7. Increases Carbon Sequestration: Compost Benefits
Compost is high quality organic matter, made up of carbon. Just the task of adding it to the soil increases soil carbon levels. In addition, with the improved soil health that results, the soil microbes grow and become more plentiful. These microbes sequester carbon in the soil, further improving carbon sequestration rates.
8. Acts as Sponge to Hold Water
One of the benefits of compost is that it improves water holding capacity, and holds water during periods of drought. Only a 5% increase in organic material can 4x the soils water holding capacity, allowing water to be more available to plants over longer period of times.
9. Acts as a Slow Release Fertilizer
Soil microbes that feed on the soil organic matter work together with the plants to have nutrients available when the plants need it (not all at once). Compost can hold nutrients tight enough to prevent them from washing out, but loosely enough so plants can take them up, as needed. Mycorrhizal fungi play an essential role finding and releasing nutrients. They also help plants share resources and communicate with each other. Whether growing tomatoes varieties or purple potatoes, your plants will love you for adding compost.
10. Neutralizes Soil pH: Compost Benefits
Whether acidic or basic, compost can change the soil pH, bringing it closer to neutral. This is important since some minerals are tied up and not available to plants when low or high pH is present. This is done through a buffering process, neutralizing both acid & alkaline soils. The optimum soil pH is around 7. Low pH (2-5) are considered acidic soils. High pH (9-14) is considered alkaline. Compost helps correct both extremes.
11. Allows Soil to Breathe – Improving Soil Structure
It’s the compost microbes again, responsible for improving the air space in soil. They are the miners of the soil (as well as earthworms), and create tunnels that allow greater root depth, air and structure. One of the benefits of making high quality compost is that you are adding these beneficial microbes, ultimately resulting in improved soil structure. Good soil structure allows water infiltration and holds water within the root zone.
12. Rejuvenate Salt Destroyed Arid Lands – Ties up Salts
In desert soils where sodium levels are too high for plants, compost, together with certain living organisms can transmutate sodium ions. Resulting in transforming wasteland (sodic soils) back into productive systems.
13. Degrades Poisons & Metals: Compost Benefits
Compost can reduce chemical pesticides since it contains beneficial microorganisms, particularly different types of soil mushrooms, that may protect plants from diseases and pests.
Some soil fungi, that can be attached to compost or use its organic matter as a food source can degrade pesticides, herbicides and other poisons, and even sequester heavy metals.
14. Breaks Down Oils and Wastes: Compost Benefits
Remember the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989? What a tragic that was. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was also one of similar magnitude. Did you know that specific naturally occurring fungi were brought in to degrade the oil? Compost is a host for a variety of fungi that are able to utilize carbon as a food source, resulting in the breaking down of oils and wastes into less harmful substances.
15. Stabilizes Soil Temperature
Studies have shown that when compost is added to soil surface it acts as a thermal barrier, a type of mulch, keeping soils below the compost a cooler temperature. This reduces evaporation and keeps soils a lot moisture, leaving more water available to the plants.
16. Builds Lost Topsoil: Benefits of Compost
Adding compost results in the addition of organic matter, aka carbon. When soils lose their topsoil they lose their most valuable soil layer – one full of organic matter. By applying compost one of the biggest benefits of compost is the re-introduction of organic matter, which over time can replace topsoil lost as a result of erosion or poor soil management practices.
If you are growing tomatoes, your plants need all the nutrients that are found in topsoil, so adding compost can help replace what your plants need.
17. Improves Fertilizer Efficiency
Compost-enriched soil retains organic fertilizers better. Over a long term, the release of plant-available nutrients from composts can be substantial. One of the biggest benefits of compost is that over time, you will not need to use as much other organic soil amendment, and you can eliminate the use of synthetic fertilizers such as Miracle Grow altogether.
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