What is compost?

Rebuilding Soil
The Earth's Way

Though the achievements of NPK fertilizers in modern horticulture and agriculture are undisputed, they are not enough. That's because there's more to soil than the macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Micronutrients (such as zinc, sulfur, copper, iron, and numerous trace elements), along with oxygen, organic carbon, and beneficial microbes all contribute to the living micro-environment that plants need to thrive.

That's where compost comes in. It is the original soil management tool as it rebuilds the soil from the ground down, improving its physical, chemical, and biological properties. Over time, soil becomes depleted of nutrients and living organic matter. It becomes inert dirt. Simply stated, compost turns dirt back into soil.

Physical Structure

Adding compost makes soil more crumbly and workable. As a result, the problems associated with soil compaction (poor aeration, difficulty cultivating, poor drainage) are significantly alleviated. With improved soil structure, vegetation develops strong, healthy root systems, which is key to protecting soils from wind and water erosion.

Compost's organic matter acts like a thirsty sponge, holding water within the soil matrix. That means fewer runoff problems and less susceptibility to drought. In addition, fewer irrigations are required, so water costs are held in check.

Chemical Efficiency

Compost can raise or lower soil's pH, providing just the right acid/alkaline balance for a variety of plants. It also buffers the pH, stabilizing it against change. To determine your soil's pH level, the University of Hawai's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR)  has put together an instructional brochure on why and how to take a soil-test sample.

In addition, compost improves the cation exchange capacity of soil. This increases its ability to hold nutrients, thereby increasing its fertility and maximizing its usage of fertlizer, often allowing for reduced applications.

Biological Health

Because nutrients are released by microbial action as soil temperatures rise, plants benefit from a built-in "time release" feature that matches their increased nutrient demands as warm weather accelerates growth. The result is higher yields from the same soil. Increased populations of certain microbes may suppress plant diseases, such as phythium and fusarium, as well as nematodes .

Creating A Premium Compost

How is it that an age-old process like composting can help create so many benefits? The secret lies in nature's powerful engine of decomposition: microorganisms. These actinomycetes, bacteria, protozoa, and fungi literally devour the raw materials, raising the themperature within the heap and excreting clean, organic matter. In nature, this may take years to accomplish, but composts like  EKO are created using techniques that speed up nature's process without losing its benefits.

What is compost made of?

Just about any organic material can be composted. Processed sewage sludge (often referred to as biosolids), manure, agricultural and yard trimmings, and municipal greenwaste collections are among the commonly used ingredients in compost. Of these, biosolids are perhaps the riches source of soil nutrients.


For years, cities have struggled with ever-increasing quantities of sewage sludge. As landfills overflow, composting as emerged as an economical way to turn a liability into an asset. Before the biosolids reach the compost row, they have met the EPA 's strict Process to Significantly Reduce Pathogens (PSRP) guidelines.

Bulking Agents

Along with biosolids, good compost requires some form of bulking agent to give it the proper Carbon:Nitrogen ratio. These can include wood cellulose, or just about any kind of plant material. Depending on the way the ingredients are handled, composts can vary dramatically in their final form.  EKO's proprietary process ensures a clean, vital compost.

Heat: Nature's Purifier

Under controlled conditions, windrows or aerated piles of these organic materials are allowed to heat up using the thermophilic action of the microorganisms. Reaching temperatures between 131°F to 165°F, the raw materials are literally digested. Proper moisture and oxygen levels are necessary at this stage to produce the best compost. Pathogens, including harmful bacteria, viruses, and weed seeds, are destroyed, and pesticide residues are broken down. Because each batch will vary in composition, good compost is always critically monitored and documented during the process.

Is all compost created equal?

With so many benefits linked to compost use, the question must be asked: Is all compost equally beneficial?  The answer is no.

That's because not all compost has the same biological vigor. Some commerical composts have only a fraction of the microorganisms found in the best composts. These inferior compost have been "burnt" in the compost process; that is, they have not bee maintained at proper temperatures, with the proper amounts of air and water.

Living Organisms:
The secret of compost's power

Truly fertile soil contains more than simply the proper balance of minerals; it contains life. Millions of microorganisms in every handful of compost exist in symbiotic harmony with plant roots to improve the feeding capacity of the plant. Certain beneficial molds and yeasts, for example, live on plant roots and create a network of their own minute root hairs that greatly increase the plant's ability to draw nutrients from the soil. Compost whose microbial populations have been decimated by improper processing has, in effect, lost the ability to nourish life.

Organic Matter: Balancing the Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio

Plants need adequate carbon dioxide if they are to use nitrogen efficiently. Simply adding nitrogen to soil, without supplementary carbon in the form of organic matter, can result in disappointing yields or even accelerated depletion of available humus as it is rapidly used up to create carbon dioxide. Compost supplies organic matter in a balanced blend with nitrogen so plants can thrive.

Other Benefits

Compost has the ability to bind heavy metals and other contaminants , reducing both their leachability and absorption by plants. The microbes in compost are also able to degrade certain toxic organic compounds, including petroleum hydrocarbons.

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