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Home / Smart Harvest

Fertiliser stress? Try compost ideas

The cost of fertiliser is at an all time high and crop farmers are feeling the heat. As the Government sorts out the mess (subsidies options?), farmers need to look for alternatives to increase soil nutrients. One option is to embrace compositing. Composting has several benefits, including maintaining and enhancing that soil quality. Today I will explain why adding compost to your farm should be routine to complement the organic fertilisers. Because different types of compost have slightly different nutrient contents, a soil test will help you determine any specific deficiencies in your soil. Before you know it, your compost pile can save you money while producing healthy crops.

What is compost?

Compost is a mixture of decaying natural substances, such as animals, vegetables, fruits, leaves, eggshells, coffee grounds and grasses. The decaying substances are then added into the soil to make the soil fertile and boost it with many nutritional elements that plants need to grow and function at their best. Compost and other soil amendments are not rated with Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK) like the organic fertiliser. With compost, you are generally trying to make your soil better and healthier overall by adding rich, organic material that improves the overall health and tilth of the soil.

Compost and fertilisers can work together really well when used correctly. The organic matter in compost sponges up nutrients within fertiliser and stores them until plants need them. Compost also provides plants with many nutrients in minimal amounts, like boron. You can use fertiliser without using compost, but you miss a chance to increase soil fertility and your soil’s ability to hold moisture. Soil regularly amended with compost becomes rich, dark, and crumbly, often needing much less fertiliser than soil that hasn’t routinely been treated with compost.

Good compost

Good compost can be made from kitchen waste, such as coffee grounds, unbleached paper products, and eggshells, as well as an accumulation of grass clippings, leaves and other yard trash, like twigs and spent blooms. Compost adds micronutrients and nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, essential to plant growth, to the soil. It also helps the soil retain moisture for plants and reduces nutrient leaching. Strong plant roots can develop in healthy soil, allowing the plants to absorb nutrients more efficiently. Compost also helps the soil retain those nutrients for a longer period. Healthy soil and the plants that grow in it better ward off various pests and diseases.

The humus you add to a garden is packed with microorganisms, such as beneficial bacteria and fungi. These decompose organic matter and work to aerate the soil. Beneficial soil organisms also work to suppress pathogens. Adding compost to your garden soil helps increase the number of microbes and macronutrients that will help your plants develop strong roots and thrive. Composting adds nutrients to the soil in between successive crops. When you harvest crops in the middle of the growing season, say garlic or peas, you will be pulling out some of the soil from the garden. Those plants will also have depleted some of the nutrients. Incorporating compost before succession planting add valuable nutrients back into the soil that those new plants will need to thrive.

Rather than tilling hard-packed soil, which can disturb the web of activity from microorganisms, adding a layer every year will eventually work to transform it into loose, friable soil. Compost can also amend sandy soils, holding moisture for the plants to access rather than quickly draining away.


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