For gardeners, soil is everything. The soil that plants grow from determines almost everything about the quantity and quality of nutrients that they will have access to. Hard, chalky dirt will only support the hardiest, toughest of weeds. For more delicate plants, like most flowers and plants that bear fruit, richer soil is required. The best way to accomplish this is with compost.
So, what is compost? Compost is organic matter that has been broken down into a rich black fertilizer. In nature, when plants die, the leaves, rotting fruits and vegetables, and other soft parts decompose naturally back into the soil. This process returns the nutrients that those plants used to grow themselves to the earth, so that they can be used again by the next plant. When gardening, it is important to continue this process by composting so that your plants will have access to the nutrients they need.
Compost can come from many kitchen leftovers. Any used up plant matter can be broken down into compost after you are done with it. Think carrot tops, apple cores, banana peels, coffee grounds, or any fruits or veggies or bread that starts to grow mold. Egg shells and some other animal products also make for good compost. Virtually anything that was once a plant that you do not need anymore can be tossed into the compost pile and turned into fertile soil.
To make a compost pile, you could simply pile up your compost materials in a corner of the garden. Chopping them up with a hoe or rake regularly can help the decomposition process. For quicker decomposition, it can help to get a bin to keep the compost in, with a lid to keep out sunlight. Sunlight dries out the compost, impeding the decomposition process. The best composting atmosphere is a warm, dark, moist place without too much ventilation.
Once you have your compost, which can take weeks or months depending on the materials used, it can be added directly to the soil to create a fertile place to grow plants. First, dig up the soil such that the top foot or two are lifted and ready to be mixed. Then, pour your compost over the top, and use a hoe to mix it into the topsoil. The difference in texture should be palpable; composted soil is richer, softer, darker, and retains moisture better than uncomposted soil. This soil will support plants that grow bigger, have brighter colors, and produce fruits and vegetables that are tastier and healthier.
So, what is compost? Compost is the result of the natural process of nutrients returning to the soil through decomposition. By harnessing the natural process for your own garden, you will be able to grow plants much more easier than in dry, uncomposted soil. By tucking away plant matter leftovers from the kitchen, soon you will have your own stock of compost, ready to transform your garden to a paradise.