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Compost Benefits Your Soil, Your Plants, and Your Planet

By understanding and applying the compost benefits listed on this page, you will, without a doubt, supercharge the health of your soil.

 As a result, you’ll grow healthier plants, including tastier vegetables, greener grass, and more vibrant flowers.

When we first started composting at home, we didn’t know it had so many benefits. We knew the most common benefits, waste reduction and fertilizer creation, but we had no idea about the depth of this subject. We never knew composting at home was also a tool for self-empowerment.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that “yard trimmings and food residues together constitute 26 percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream.” This means, that if you start composting today, you’ll keep approximately one-quarter of all of your solid waste out of the landfill. That’s a pretty incredible statistic, don’t you think? So what’s stopping you?

Organic Matter is Your Soil’s Best Ally

Compost benefits the soil in a multitude of ways, however, before we list off all of the benefits of compost, we want to teach you about a very important concept: organic matter. As soon as you understand the role of organic matter in your soil, your garden’s health will sky-rocket.

I don’t care, please show me the list of compost benefits.

A healthy functioning soil system naturally has a variety of soil layers (refer to diagram below). For instance, if you were to take a cross-section of the soil in an established grassland or forest, you would find a soil profile similar to that seen in the diagram. These layers, or horizons, consist of different materials. The following list provides a short description of each layer (starting at the top of the soil profile).

soil profile O Horizon (Humus/Litter Layer)
This layer consists of decaying plant and animal materials (e.g. leaf mold). Humus is the major component of organic matter in soil. This layer is very biologically active (i.e. lots of soil bacteria and fungi). Compost benefits this soil layer immensely.

A Horizon (Top Soil)
This layer consists of mineral- and humus-rich soils. The A Horizon is also very biologically active (i.e. lots of soil bacteria and fungi). Again, compost benefits this layer of soil in a massive way.

B Horizon (Subsoil)
This layer is low in humus, but is very mineral-rich.

C Horizon (Parent Material)
This layer contains little plant and animal life.

Who Cares About the Soil Layers?

Anyone wanting to grow stronger, healthier plants, should care about the soil layers.

If you can mimic these layers in your garden, you’ll gain incredible results.

The lower layers in your soil profile are typically fixed, or difficult to manipulate, so you’re left with the upper layers. By adding compost to your soils, you naturally increase the productivity in these upper layers.

One of the greatest benefits of compost is its high microbial levels. When you add compost back into your soils, all of these extra microbes start mining the nutrients, or minerals, from the lower levels of the soil profile (i.e. horizon B). This microbial-mining activity makes these minerals more available to your plants, which in return, become incredibly healthy.

In summary, compost benefits your soils by adding organic matter, including billions of microbes, back into your soils, and remineralizing your plants with a variety of incredible nutrients.

For more information about the importance of this soil remineralization, please refer to our About Us page.

13 Top-Ranking Compost Benefits

compost recycling Updated Jan. 2012

We didn’t realize it when we first wrote this article, but one of the more profound compost benefits is its ability to empower individuals into action. Not quite sure what we mean? Then you definitely don’t want to miss our article on composting at home. We know you’ll love it.

1. Waste Reduction

This is probably one of the first things people think about when considering the benefits of composting. As we mentioned above, if you start composting today, you’ll keep approximately one-quarter of all of your solid waste out of the landfill.

2. Free Organic Fertilizer

Not only does compost benefit your soil, it also benefits your wallet. By composting all of your yard trimming and food residues, you’ll create free organic fertilizer for your gardens, lawns, and potted plants.

3. Supply Microbes and Organic Matter

Well-made compost is teaming with microbes, and provides an abundant supply of organic matter to any soil. Why is this important? In addition to the benefits listed above, when you increase your soil’s organic matter and microbial levels, you also increase the pest resistance of the plants growing in your soils.

4. Drought Resistance

Compost benefits your gardens, lawns, and potted plants, by increasing the water-holding capacity of your soils. This increases the drought resistance of your soils. When you increase the drought resistance of your soils, you have to water less, which saves you money. This increase in water-holding capacity is a direct result of increasing the organic matter in your soils.

5. Nutrient-Holding Capacity

When you add compost to your soils, the organic matter in the compost helps to bond nutrients from the surrounding environment, including the atmosphere (thanks to the microbes). The organic matter in compost acts like a big nutrient magnet; holding on to nutrients until your plants need them. This process of holding nutrients until they are required by plants has been referred to as a just-in-time delivery system; supplying plants the nutrients they need, right when they need them.

add compost to sandy soil 6. Improve Soil Structure

Whether your soils are compacted clay, or sandy deserts, when you add compost, your soil structure will improve. If you add compost to clay soils, they will loosen and have better aeration and drainage. This is a critical factor in creating beautiful lawns in new subdivisions. If you add compost to sandy soils, they will tighten and hold more water.

7. Prevent Erosion

Compost benefits soil structure, as mentioned above, but in doing so, it helps to prevent erosion. The organic matter in compost acts like a bonding agent in soils; holding all of the other soil elements in place. If you’re garden is in a windy location, the addition of compost will
reduce your soil’s tendency to blow away. If you’re garden is on a slope, the addition of compost, will reduce your soil’s tendency to slide downwards.

8. Buffer pH and Temperatures

By adding compost to your gardens, you no longer have to worry about the pH levels of your soils. The organic matter, or humus, in compost, provides a great buffering capacity; meaning, more nutrients are available to your plants over a wider range of pH values.

This same concept also applies to the temperature of your garden soils. When you have enough organic matter in your garden, the extremes in outdoor temperatures do not have as big of an affect on your soil temperatures. Overall, the addition of compost, will keep your soils warmer during cooler months, and cooler during warmer months.

9. Provide Plant Steroids

High-quality compost produces compounds called humic acids. Humic acids have been shown to stimulate plant growth, while also aiding in the assimilation of other plant nutrients.

10. Use it as a Mulch

One of the other great benefits of composting is that you can use it as a mulch. Finished compost suppresses weeds, when it is applied in thick (minimum 2″, ideally 4″) layers, on top of your garden’s soil, and around your trees. For added weed suppression, lay down a couple sheets of newspaper underneath your compost mulch. Note – If you are going to be using compost as a mulch, please ensure the compost is completely cured. A quick smell-test will let you know if this is the case. If the compost smells anything other than “earthy”, it is not completely cured.

11. Create Potting Soil

Try adding compost to your potting soil mix. Commercial potting soil has been heated and sterilized, therefore, killed all of the beneficial microbes. When you add compost back into these pre-made mixes, you’ll be inoculating them with all those wonderful little bacteria and fungi. Needless to say, your plants will thank you. Tip – All of your houseplants will benefit from compost, so be sure to amend their soils as well.

12. Feed Your Lawn

Compost is one of the best soil amendments for your lawn. Your lawn doesn’t need a tonne of synthetic fertilizers, all it needs is high-quality compost. We estimate that at least 90% of the lawns in North America would benefit from an application of compost.

13. Create Compost Tea

High-quality compost is the main ingredient in compost tea. Please visit our making compost tea page, to learn more about brewing this incredible soil conditioner.