The short answer is simply that homemade compost is brilliant stuff. It feeds the microbes that build healthy soils, helps improve soil structure and is a great way to recycle waste and save it from landfill.
And the longer version…
It’s free and saves you buying fertiliser
A well-maintained heap produces beautiful, crumbly compost from kitchen scraps and garden waste. It takes a little time and effort, but essentially this is a free source of organic matter. Add it to your soil and it provides food for the bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms that form a thriving ecosystem below ground. We’re only just beginning to understand how the complex relationships between the soil, the microbes and the plants work, but basically a healthy soil makes for a more resilient and productive garden. With healthy soil the garden grows stronger, and we can use less in the way of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, saving money and the planet.
It can reduce the need for watering
The organic matter that compost brings also helps improve soil structure. The pores that give good soil a nice open structure mean the ground can soak up water after rain and, more importantly, hold on to it. This forms an underground reservoir of water for the plants to draw on between showers… especially important as we see more hotter, drier summers under a changing climate. And a less compacted structure encourages roots to grow further in search of the moisture and nutrients the plants need.
It may help in the fight against climate change – two ways
A good soil also has the potential to lock away carbon. This is one of the reasons regenerative agriculture is seeing so much interest. Adding manure or compost and encouraging the activity of fungi through minimising soil disturbance helps build a stable soil structure which can act as a carbon sink. While there is still much debate over the extent to which soils can help in the fight against climate change, making and using compost at home is unlikely to do any harm and may be beneficial even if it’s only on a very small scale.
Food waste sent to landfill, you know all those vegetable and fruit peelings, egg shells, and past-their-best bags of mixed salad from the back of the fridge, rots among all the other waste and produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Food waste added to the compost bin decomposes and, while it still releases some methane and carbon dioxide the amounts are far less than the equivalent volume of waste going to landfill. The other main difference, of course, is that at the end of the process you get compost to grow more food in.
Making compost is part of the cycle of nature – recycling dead organic material and releasing nutrients to feed microbes and plants… and ourselves. If you have a garden, you should definitely have a compost heap!