from Harvest Power
Soil Health – Successful gardens depend on the health of the soil. Compost, designed by Mother Nature herself, enhances soil health naturally by improving its structure and increasing its nutrient content. Unlike chemical fertilizers that only include the basic elements required for plant growth, compost contains micronutrients and organic matter vital to the long-term health of the soil system. Soils amended with compost demonstrate a robust structure with increased water holding capacity, increased oxygen flow to the roots, improved drainage and buffered pH changes. Building up the strength of the root zone environment consequently reduces wind and water erosion.
Healthy Soil, Healthy Food – Food grown in soil amended with compost tends to have a higher nutritional content than food grown with chemical fertilizers. As documented in Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, cabbage grown with compost had a higher ratio of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) to nitrate than cabbage grown with chemical fertilizer. A higher ratio leads to better absorption of Vitamin C. Additionally, tomatoes grown with compost smelled and tasted better than tomatoes grown in potting soil or without fertilizer. In short, compost not only makes your garden healthier, it can make you healthier!
Reducing Energy Demands Associated with Irrigation – Many people recognize that compost contributes to healthier soils and healthier plants, but compost has other lesser-known benefits. For example, applying compost to soil can reduce energy demands associated with irrigation. Compost helps roots grow long and strong. Because compost increases the infiltration and storage capacity of root systems, compost-treated soil requires less irrigation. Given that California farmers consume 8% of all electricity generated in the state running water supply infrastructure to fields, they could significantly reduce water consumption – and energy consumption – by applying compost.
Exploring Alternatives for Petro-Chemical Fertilizers – Using compost reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers cause a number of environmental problems including increasing soil acidity, leaching, and polluting groundwater. The overabundance of nitrogen in chemical fertilizers is especially dangerous—eutrophication, the presence of excess nitrogen in bodies of water, reduces water quality and prevents the oxygen levels necessary for fish and shellfish to survive. In contrast, compost buffers pH changes, promotes healthy organism growth, and provides much-needed trace elements that artificial fertilizers lack.
Compost and Erosion – In addition to promoting plant growth, compost helps prevent erosion. United States croplands are losing topsoil about 18 times faster than the soil formation rate.4Sometimes referred to as “Peak Soil” the solution is to use local soils and keep nutrients within the local organic cycle. Composting is one way of restoring nature’s balance. If you want to learn more, turn your attention to the classic book, “The Soils That Support Us” by Charles E. Kellogg, originally published in 1941 but holds messages that still ring true today.