Why is compost needed in Payson gardens?

The last post mentioned the success of the local Payson Community Garden that was started up in April of this year.  One of the items that was necessary to do to start this garden, was to supplement the soil at the garden site with as much manure and mulch that could be found.  In preparation for next years garden,  a large compost pile 20’x20’x4′ has been started that has layers of grass from the Town of Payson parks and recreation group, wood chips that have been donated by APS and various landscaping groups, horse and llama manure and mixed together by volunteers with tractors.  This compost will be allowed to mature until next spring.  In addition, as the plants in the garden come to the end of their productivity and are dug up, they are being piled in another compost area that will also be worked.

There are numerous reasons why composting is so important in our gardening efforts in Payson.  First of all we have a decomposed granite base for most of the soils in our area.  The soils taxonomy books call it a Typic haplustalf for much of the area.  This type of soil is considered an Alfisol. Alfisols form between the Aridisols of the deserts and the Inceptisols etc that are in warmer more humid climates.  Okay enough of that, basically they are hard to dig in and have very little organic matter.  Hence, we have to add a lot of compost in order to make them productive as many of you gardeners out there have found out!

The US Composting Council has a “Strive for 5% organic matter” campaign they started in 2011.  This campaign is designed to reinforce the idea promoted for many years by gardening experts that soils should contain at least 5% organic matter. They believe that the most cost efficient, effective and environmentally sound way to maintain or increase this level is with compost!

These are the five reasons why compost is so important from your garden as taken directly from the USCC Website.  http://compostingcouncil.org/strive-for-5/

  • Compost improves soil structure and porosity – Compost physically loosens soil and helps create a better plant root environment. Plants are only as healthy as their root systems allow them to be!
  • Compost increases moisture infiltration and permeability; reducing bulk density in heavy soils while also improving the moisture holding capacity of light soils – Water is a precious and limited resource. Improving moisture infiltration rates, reducing erosion and runoff, reducing water loss and nutrient leaching, and improving moisture retention are all derived from compost use.
  • Compost supplies organic matter – Organic matter serves as a reservoir of nutrients and water in the soil, aids in reducing compaction and surface crusting, and increases water infiltration into the soil. Organic matter is necessary for ongoing soil health, and serves as a fast-acting nutrient supply, while also working in a time-release manner. In effect, while plants feed off of active materials, the more stable materials are gradually converting into usable nutrients. In addition, the stable decomposing forms quickly absorb available soil nutrients for plant use. (University of Minnesota Extension). Compost supplies lots of organic matter! Here are some useful links and sources for more extensive facts on the benefits of organic matter and compost:
    1. http://www.ehow.com/about_6541469_importance-organic-matter-soil.html
    2. http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/feature/backyard/orgmtrsl.html
    3. http://www.mosesorganic.org/attachments/productioninfo/fsfertility.html
  • Compost allows plants to more effectively utilize nutrients, while reducing nutrient loss by leaching – Chemical fertilizers are expensive and becoming restricted in many parts of the US due to environmental concerns over Nitrogen and Phosphorus pollution. Compost allows the consumer to use less, and to make their use much more effective. Most compost is also a source of slow release nutrients, which do not pose the same environmental concerns as fast release, soluble nutrients.
  • Compost supplies beneficial microorganisms to soils – Compost is a living product. Healthy soil is a living material, ideally filled with beneficial microorganisms. As small as they are, soil microorganisms are the real giants in your garden, and your garden soil should be swarming with millions of these microorganisms. This “living-soil-life” helps; keep your soil healthy, decompose organic matter, replenish soil nutrients, form humus, promote root growth, increase nutrient uptake, and breakdown herbicides and pesticides. These microorganisms include bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa. Good quality compost provides this source of life!

Go to the US Composting Council website to find out additional information on how you can start your own composting efforts at home and make your garden healthy and productive for the next growing season. Transition Town Payson is in the process of starting a food project group that would work to encourage more community/neighborhood gardens, provide garden education and assist in composting efforts for the Payson area.  Make a comment to this post if you are interested in helping…

Building compost for next year!


About rsingram

Environmental Specialist, Disaster Reservist, Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control, Para-Archeologist
This entry was posted in Economics, Gardening and Composting, Water Conservation. Bookmark the permalink.

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