The Miracle of Compost- For Building Deeper Earth for Growers

There are many compost products out there but what makes quality compost? What makes one different from another? Is compost safe?

Simple Answers:

  • There are composts that contain a sustainable richness of biology and those which do not have a sustainable set for growing more soil. The rich nutrients released by composting happens because of the abundance of beneficial microbes which start in soil.

  • Sustainability reflects the highest productivity in nature. The assembly of biology in the compost will look like the beneficial soil life which is living around healthiest wild plants. This includes species diversity and abundances. Composts should meet a minimum standard of microbial biomass richness.

  • It offers plants the possibility to increase the abundance of soil life through foods roots provide. Plants give much of their energy in sugars to feed microbes in soil. (See photo the gallery below!)

  • A quality unleached compost will have enough nitrogen and other nutrient cycling to keep plants growing where they are most capable of being fit.

  • Organic unleached compost is enough to grow some of the world's largest crops on record!

  • Composting is a naturally occurring process. Compost is safe as long as it is fresh and has gone through thorough heating- it should never have putrid smells, heavy ashy layers or other strong odors when completed. Keep it protected and aerobic so problems should not occur. (Ask for compost quality documentation!)

What do I need for building soil richness?

  • The most rich set of microorganisms possible from diversity of foods in the compost. Tilling does tremendous damage to soil biology! This amount of tilling does not happen in nature's soils so this is easily overlooked.

  • A complete food web to allow nutrient cycling and to prevent the loss of nitrogen in organic debris. If wood chips are used, they need to develop the food web first so they will not absorb nutrients- never bury wood mulch unless it has been composted first. Leave a thin layer of wood chips on top- so they save water, protect earthworms and multiply them below.

  • A fungal compost will reduce problems with weeds (if it is hard to find, try out fungal inoculate for soil and compost tea).

  • No micromanaging of pH or other nutrients- the plant gives the proper sets of foods for the soil life it needs to grow. Microbes will change the pH, in direct relation to how plants feed which sets that do.

Common problems with Compost...

  • Compost was made left out in rain while composting and has been leached.

  • Bags were cooked in the sun.

  • Compost is too dry, causing dormancy of microbes or loss.

  • The microbiology was lost! The richness is lost!

  • Anaerobic (having toxic plant stressing compounds).

  • A limited set of food web microbes- the benefit is not sustainable for growing (but sustainable for the ecosystem) - it is temporary - and adds only organic matter which may be of some use later on.

  • Diverse sets of microbes were never established - just a limited set of bacteria

Soil Life Services offers laboratory consulting and solutions on compost!


What is missing here? 

  • Once nutrients from composts are taken up, all the nutrient cycling remaining may be none to little.

  • Bacterial composts allow for mostly nitrates to be produced, weeds love nitrates!

  • Where are the other food web members? Not that different from tilled farm soil is it?

(Photo of a common commercial compost- some are fungal but it may require microscope assays to know...)


Beneficial Fungal Compost

  • May appropriately vary in biomass according to its use for the sucession of plant species

  • Can be balanced with bacteria or predominately fungal

  • Will often have numerous flagellates, amoebae and beneficial nematodes for nutrient cycling of bacteria and fungi!

  • Should be loaded with plant beneficial fungi!

  • The proportions of fungi needed can be balanced with bacterial compost.

(A photo from our own compost pile!)