Composting is a good way to increase garden productivity: Part I

| March 2006

Composting is a good way to increase garden productivity: Part I

Improving soil structure is one factor that increases garden productivity. This can be accomplished in several ways. One of the best methods is to rototill compost directly into the soil. In fact, compost - a mixture of partially decomposed plant material and other wastes - solves many soil problems.

Not only does composting improve soil structure, it also releases plant nutrients and plays a role in recycling. In most instances, improving garden soil is necessary for successful plant growth through maturity. The ideal garden soil is loose, with a high water-holding capacity and adequate drainage. Composting creates these soil conditions.

Decomposing compost releases plant nutrients slowly. However, usually this material will not provide the nitrogen crops require. Organic gardeners solve this problem by adding a combination of compost and manure to produce good yields. In this case, additional fertilizers are unnecessary.

Recycling comes into play because gardeners make compost from garden wastes, reducing burdens of trash disposal.

Most organic materials decompose, but some aren't suited for a compost pile. Usable organic waste consists of leaves, grass clippings, straw and nonwoody plant trimmings. Any tree branches bigger than 1/4 inch in diameter must be chopped or shredded. Vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and eggshells are also suitable for compost. On the other hand, organic materials that pose health problems and those that draw rodents (meat, eggs, dairy products and grease) should not be put in a compost pile.

Another problem with compost piles is the presence of weed seeds and disease organisms. Compost piles generate heat often reaching 150°F. If these harmful organisms are located at the edge of the pile, they may cause problems.

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