What is Compost

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 31,529
    Master gardener Ed Bruske discusses what compost is and how you should use it in your garden.

    Ed Bruske

    An award-winning journalist for The Wasington Post in a previous life, Ed Bruske is a Master Gardener and president of D.C. Urban Gardeners, a group dedicated to the greening of the District of Columbia through public education and hands-on volunteer efforts. An accomplished public speaker, Ed focuses his lecture activities on composting and soil ecology. He practices daily organic recycling through composting and vermicomposting at his home about a mile from the White House, where he and his wife are transforming their corner lot into an edible landscape. Ed is a personal chef, caterer and chef-in-residence at The Washington Youth Garden, located at the U.S. National Arboretum in the District of Columbia. He also writes about composting and cooking from the garden on his blog, The Slow Cook, www.theslowcook.blogspot.com.

    I am Ed Bruske with D.C. Urban Gardeners. We are talking about composting and you may be wondering what exactly is compost. Well, I just happen to have a pile right here and if you reach in, I have been working on this for about three months. Compost looks like soil, it smells like great soil, does not smell like garbage at all. Now, what I have in my hand right here, hard to believe, probably a billion or more microorganisms in this one single handful of soil. Everything from bacteria to protozoa, fungi and even bigger animals or bigger creatures called Sal Bugs, centipedes, earthworms. They are what we call decomposers and they comprise a whole ecosystem of their own. In fact, underneath the earth, there may actually be more biomass or more living things than there are on the surface of the earth.

    Charles Darwin, you know him best for his theory of evolution, but when he wasn't working on that, he had his nose right down on the ground studying earthworms. He was convinced that earthworms had that every bit of earth on the planet, at one point or another had gone through an earthworm. His friends thought he was crazy, but actually he was pretty much correct. Earthworms and the decomposers are everywhere and where would we be without them. If we didn't have these creatures munching on all kinds of dead stuff, dead leaves, grass clippings, dead animals, everything that is once alive and dies is eaten up by these creatures here and turned into compost, we call that decomposition.

    If they weren't here doing that, we would be over our heads in garbage and dead things, so thank goodness for the decomposers. What I am going to talk to you about further on is how we take advantage of these decomposers, harness that power to create our own compost that we can add to our garden soil. So, what I will be talking to you about next is how compost happens.