Spring is here, and folks are starting vegetable gardens. I can hardly wait for the farmer’s markets to open with all of the fresh produce. I will be looking for the ones that have been organically grown – no pesticides and no herbicides.

This is part one of the benefits of composting. If you do not already compost, there are several reasons to begin and a couple of options to get the job accomplished.

First, why compost? Putting compostable materials in a pile or bin greatly reduces what goes in a landfill. You would be amazed at all of the things that could be composted that you are probably throwing away. (Between recycling and composting, you could reduce the amount of actual trash you put out for collection by at least 75 percent.) Imagine how many fewer landfills we would need if everyone both composted and recycled.

Second, organic matter you put in your compost decomposes differently than if put in a landfill. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Municipal solid waste contains portions of organic materials that produce a variety of gaseous products when dumped, compacted, and covered in landfills. Anaerobic bacteria thrive in the oxygen-free environment, resulting in the decomposition of the organic materials and the production of primarily carbon dioxide and methane.” Essentially, when things are squashed together so tightly in a landfill that there is no longer oxygen between anything – poisonous carbon dioxide and methane gases are released. Composting helps build soil carbon and reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide. Both carbon dioxide and methane gas contribute to global warming.

Compost makes fertilizer. So, while you are growing wonderful vegetables, enjoying your native flowers, lush green lawn, and other plantings you can treat them to your homemade fertilizer.

Compost also makes a more superior fertilizer. Because compost is made from a variety of plant materials, it makes a more nutrient-dense fertilizer than just raw animal manure. It also gives longer lasting results than synthetic fertilizers or manure.

Also, the plant materials in compost reduce the tendency of clay soils to crust over, which can interfere with seed emergence. Compost adds organic matter back into soil helping break up heavy clay and compacted soils. Composted fertilizer quickly helps restore “sour” soils.

What makes compost work is the high temperature generated during the composting process. These temperatures kill weed seeds, insect pests and disease-causing bacteria, and they reduce the odors associated with animal manure.

Compost feeds biotic communities in soils and increases overall biological activity. Dig up any area with added compost and you will find a much greater number of earthworms. Earthworms aerate the soil; their waste is an incredible fertilizer in itself, as are their castings.

All of these elements combined increase nutrient cycling and boost plant health. Because compost fertilizer conditions the soils, adds nutrients, grows more vigorous plants, and suppresses various root diseases, it can help plants better tolerate insect attacks.

You do not need an expensive composting bin. There are several different ways to set up composting in your backyard. These will be covered in part two next week. Until then, think Spring GREEN!

Reach Lynn Youngblood at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net.