Monday, February 2, 2009

Landscape and Turf - What is Compost?

Compost is being recommended for use in turf and landscapes. However, many people do not really know what compost is. The following are some definitions and information on compost and composting.

  • Compost is the natural humus like material that remains when you decompose organic materials such as plants and animal manures.
  • Compost is the product resulting from the controlled biological decomposition of organic material that has been sanitized through the generation of heat and stabilized to the point that it is beneficial to plant growth.
  • Composting is a controlled biologic process in which microorganisms convert organic materials into humus-like material called compost.
  • Active composting is typically characterized by a high temperature phase, that sanitizes the organic materials and allows a high rate of decomposition.
  • This is followed by a lower temperature phase that allows for the product to stabilize, while still decomposing at a lower rate.
  • Compost bears little physical resemblance to the raw material from which it originated.
  • Compost is an organic matter resource that has the unique ability to improve the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of soils or growing media.
  • Compost contains plant nutrients but is typically not characterized as a fertilizer.
  • Compost is not:
    –Topsoil is Excavated surface soil, 1-4 % organic matter (compost is ~50 % organic matter)
    •‘Black dirt’
    –There are high organic matter soils, usually from drained marshes or swamps but these still are different from compost.
    –Peat is moss from natural bogs or bogs that have been drained
    –Peat is less biologically active, less renewable than compost
    –Fertilizers are more concentrated sources of mineral nutrients. Compost does contain nutrients but at lower levels than fertilizers.

Leaf Compost

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