What is Compost? – What is Composting?

What is Compost?

The aroma of a forest floor is attributed to humus, the result of organic matter’s complete decomposition. The original organic material is no longer discernible, leaving behind a rich, crumbly, black, and sweet-smelling soil-like substance known as compost.

In a deciduous forest, leaves, branches, animal waste, and deceased plants and creatures accumulate on the forest floor year after year. However, no one cleans the forest, nor adds fertilizer or water. Instead, everything rots where it falls, creating natural fertilizer that fosters healthy soil and plants, allowing forests to flourish for centuries.

Forest Floor
Fallen leaves and a rotting log on a forest floor.

The layers of decomposing organic material on the forest floor serve as a habitat for various bacteria, fungi, and insects, which are essential for producing biological, chemical, and structural changes in the soil. These changes are vital to the health of trees and plants that make up the forest. In urban and suburban areas, however, organic waste is often removed, such as leaves, grass clippings, and animal waste, depriving lawns and gardens of essential nutrients. The absence of organic waste also hinders the natural checks and balances that keep soil pests and pathogens at bay and prevent optimal water absorption, retention, and drainage in soil. Organic matter is indispensable for soil health.

What is Composting?

We need organic waste in our soil to keep it healthy but, for aesthetic as well as sanitation reasons, we don’t want to allow organic materials to decay where they fall.  So we continue to collect leaves, grass clippings, and manure.  Then we take them to another location to rot.  This process is called “composting”, and the decaying organic matter is known as “compost”.

After the composting process has transformed the waste into a beneficial compost, it is transported to a selected location and incorporated into the soil.

3 different types of compost bins.