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Compost - What It Is - What It Does

It is a word many if not all of us have heard in reference to gardening, but probably few of us know what it is, how it is made, and what services it can provide. Have you ever been to a friend's house and seen that smelly disgusting hole at the far corner of the garden with all the flies buzzing around it and been told that it is his or her compost? Well if this ever happened to you, let me assure you- that is not compost. Composting at an extremely elementary level is nothing more than decayed organic matter. It has been done by farmers since about the 1930's. It may seem like a very simple process.

All you really do is gather up your organic garbage and put it in a hole and then just wait for it to become compost. In reality, however, compost is very complicated and complex microbiology at its best. It requires the interaction of tens of thousands of microorganisms in this extremely complex ecosystem. When done properly, which is quite different than that fly-hole we were talking about earlier, the composting process will kill weeds and it will even suppress human pathogens. That is not the way leaves and twigs decompose naturally. Compost, in essence, provides topsoil with a means to fight off the hundreds of diseases that can affect each of the plant species. Composting also accomplishes that all of the microorganisms needed by each plant to grow properly will be present. When composting is done properly, it helps plants soak up nutrients which they would have a significantly more difficult time soaking up without the help of the compost.

Composting is often described as nature's way of recycling organic matter. This is not the case at all. Nature mulches organic matter. People compost organic matter using nature as a primary tool. But saying that composting is natural, is like saying that a solar-powered calculator is natural. The process is quite complicated and impossible without the help of people even though nature is used for part of the process. I cannot guarantee it but I would bet my life on the fact that there are no gorillas or armadillos naturally walking through the forest, naturally piling up organic matter, naturally cooking it at high temperatures, and naturally adding in the right amount of water at the right times to properly compost all of their organic waste. Again, nature mulches organic matter; people compost organic matter.

Believe it or not, there are still those who argue that composting organic waste is a completely natural process, because natural means that nature agrees with it. Nature is always trying to make more an more topsoil and then, obviously, to protect the topsoil it has created. The reason for this is very simple and very easily understood. If there is no topsoil, there is no nature. Without sufficient topsoil, the earth would be unable to sustain plants, which would kill out the animal population and eventually kill out the human population. They argue that people can basically make as much topsoil in a single year as nature could make in a single century, nature clearly agrees with composting, thereby making the whole composting process natural. Nature clearly agrees with composting, because when you add composted organic matter into topsoil and plant in it, your plants will be smiling right back at you, clearly proving that nature agrees with the composting process.

There is another argument used to support the position that composting organic matter is a natural process that is a much stronger argument. That is based on the argument that if something is done naturally, and then people devise a better way to do accomplish the same thing, the process is still a natural process even though people do it. This being the case, composting organic waste can be a natural process. There is a bird in Australia that gathers large piles of organic waste on which it will nest. These piles can easily be referred as compost piles. Termites are also terrific composters. They build tiny compost piles underground from wood in order to make the soil that they need for the fungus farms which produce the only termite food in the world. Without composting, termites would have been extinct many years ago.

This being the case, the argument that the composting process is natural gets a lot stronger. Now, composting is actually done naturally. It can be argued that people just came along and created a more effective way to make growing plants easier. Regardless of whether or not composting is natural, the fact remains that composting organic waste is extremely beneficial.

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