Compost is ready for use when the temperature in the pile drops
to the temperature of the surrounding air. Other signs are:
smells earthy—not sour, putrid or like ammonia
no longer heats up after turned or watered
looks like dark soil
- It’s crumbly, and doesn’t have
identifiable food items, leaves or grass.
The pH is usually around 7.5, and it will have a C:N ratio ranging
from 10:1 to 20:1.
in compost before it is finished could damage plants. Undecayed
carbon materials as wood chips or leaves uses nitrogen from the soil to continue decomposing,
robbing it from the plants you grow. Undecayed nitrogen materials
can harbor pests and diseases. Immature compost can introduce weed
seeds and root-damaging organic acids.
can be used in many ways in the garden. Coarse, semi-decayed
woody material is suitable as mulch to put on
top of the soil around the plants. It can be used as mulch around
trees and shrubs, to keep the moisture in, to prevent weeds from
growing around trees and shrubs. The decayed material is good for
digging into the soil together with commercial fertilizers at preparation
can be used for installing new lawns. A fine-screened layer can
be used for a top dressing on established lawns. It can be used in
the planting areas of landscapes. It should be used extensively in
vegetable gardens to improve the organic matter content in the soil.
It can be used for houseplants, for starting seeds in planting beds
or flats, or made into a compost
tea for watering plants.
Compost is also useful for erosion control. Erosion often is the
end result of low soil fertility. Compost and the humus it contains
can actually bind to the soil, building a good structure than encourages
optimum fertility and erosion resistance. Studies have shown that
a layer of compost works much better along newly planted hillsides
beside highways than straw that was traditionally used.
An exciting new use for compost is bioremediation. Many things can
contaminate surface waters, soils and reservoirs. Using compost can
often restore these. The microorganisms in compost can sequester
or break down contaminants in water or soil. Contaminates are digested,
metabolized and transformed into humus and inert byproducts such
as carbon dioxide, water and salts. Compost bioremediation is effective
in degrading or altering chlorinated and nonclorinated hydrocarbons,
wood preserving chemicals, solvents, heavy metals, pesticides, petroleum
products and explosives.