Updated: Apr 12
Compost is organic matter. The composition of compost varies greatly depending on its original components. Compost can be kitchen waste, yard waste, chopped-up leaves, animal manure, etc. Typically, compost is created at home or purchased industrially. Large-scale compost facilities make compost from residential waste and sell them to consumers.
Animal manures such as steer manure, horse manure, and chicken manure are popular garden amendments. These products are composted but are in a category of their own because they come from animals. Depending on the type of animal you are manure originates from, their chemical properties will also vary greatly. Steer manure is often very high in urine and, therefore, high in nitrogen.
Compost adds organic matter to your soil, which improves soil texture and friability. More compost, however, is not a good thing. Excessive compost can lead to very high phosphorus content, which may leach out of your soil with heavy rains. Many composts do not publicize their chemical compositions because these components are difficult to quantify.
Soil consists of many things. It can contain organic matter and inorganic matter. Organic matter may contain biota (living things in the soil), which include bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, beneficial and pestiferous nematodes, and other small insects such as springtails. The inorganic portion of soil is usually weathered rock and various minerals. The chemical composition of soils varies greatly; chemical composition includes pH and mineral content.
In soil, there are three main particle sizes, sand, silt, and clay. Each one of these particles has unique nutrient-holding and water-retaining capabilities. Sand is the largest particle and does not hold onto nutrients well because soils high in sand drain very quickly. In short sandy soils drain very quickly, often much too quickly. On the contrary, clay is the smallest of the three particles and cannot be seen with the naked eye. Clay is a very efficient retainer of nutrients and water. Since clay soils hold so much water, they can create drainage problems.
Perfect soil does not exist, but sandy loam is often considered good garden soil. It is efficient at retaining water, is friable and not easily compacted, and has a decent amount of organic matter. For growing vegetables, the pH of your soil should be somewhere around neutral, seven. Some vegetables like a lower pH, while some like a higher pH. The ideal soil structure has decent airspaces in between the soil particles. Therefore, avoiding stepping on the parts of your garden you wish to plant is recommended. The soil we will get in our buy-in consists primarily of sand and topsoil. It is low in organic matter but great for topping off beds and sunken areas.
We will be buying compost and soil this spring for gardeners to purchase. If you have any questions, please email us back!
I recommend this class if you want to learn more about soil.