Mother Nature, the Master composter
Each year, billions of leaves fall in autumn and without the help of all kinds of organisms, our earth would be covered with a layer of leaves several kilometers thick. Mother Nature is indeed a Master Composter and it shows that nothing is wasted: a pure form of recycling. The natural process of decomposition is done by micro-organisms and macro-organisms.
Composting kitchen and garden waste alone can reduce our waste by 25%. From an environmental point of view it makes a lot of sense to compost our garbage. Compost benefits the soil in many ways and we all know that soil is the foundation of the food chain.
You can improve the soil by adding compost but also leaf mould. In my garden I use both. I use leaves of hazel, lime, hornbeam and maple with some willow and alder. Let’s talk a bit more about compost.
Compost improves all physical, chemical, and biological conditions of the soil. Compost contributes to a healthy soil teeming with life, such as earthworms, microbes, bacteria. Compost provides nutrients that will help your plants to grow and make them more resistant to pests and diseases and also contains essential trace minerals that plants need in order to grow. It also adds microorganisms to the soil. Earthworms and other insects thrive in compost. Compost also helps to improve the ability of the soil to retain moisture, especially if you work on sandy soil. All these factors combined will produce healthy plants.
What makes compost?
The main groups of micro-organisms in soil are bacteria, fungi, protozoa and actinomycetes. These creatures are very tiny and we cannot see them with our own eyes but they play a vital role in decomposition. These tiny creatures start up the whole decomposition process and enable the macro-organisms to dig in at a later stage. Bacteria are the most common micro-organism in soil. About 80% of all micro-organisms in compost are bacteria.
Earthworms, bugs, nematodes and larger animals are called macro-organisms which are mostly invertebrates.
Earthworms are to the macro-organisms what bacteria are to the micro-organisms. They are the most important players. Macro-organisms help decomposing organic matter in a physical way. Micro-organisms break down the organic matter using chemicals. Macro-organisms convert the organic matter into smaller parts. Earthworms play a crucial role in decomposing organic material and converting this into humus. They break down organic matter in such a way that plants can use it. After they have eaten, they leave behind castings which fertilize the soil. Earthworms help to increase the amount of air and water that gets into the soil. They also mix organic matter from the top layer to the soil below. Having worms in your garden is an indicator of healthy soil. When earthworms eat, the organic matter is digested by hormones, enzymes, and converted. In the gizzard, the matter is ground using tiny stones and the strong muscle of the gizzard. The digested organic matter is released as worm castings which is one of the most valuable forms of fertilizers for organic gardeners. Worm castings are rich in bacteria, organic material, nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Every worm can produce its own weight in castings each single day. Earthworms and bacteria are interconnected. Worms digest for bacteria and bacteria digest for worms.
Kitchen and garden waste
All the fruit and vegetables that I buy are grown organically. All kitchen waste ends up in my compost bin. Buying organic gives me the guarantee that the product and consequently the kitchen waste is free from any pesticide residues.
Why would you buy organic?
Here are some reasons for buying organic products: organic products have to meet the most stringent standards, they taste great as they have had sufficient time to grow and mature. Organic products reduce health risks because organic agriculture is a way to prevent chemicals from being released into the air, earth and water on which we depend. I read that some approved pesticides have apparently been registered long before thorough research was done to the link between these chemicals and diseases. Last but not least: organic farmers and gardeners have been collecting and preserving seeds and varieties of plants, helping to preserve biodiversity.
I personally like the idea of buying from a small local grower rather than buying product from these huge companies. By buying your organic products which are grown locally, I also reduce my carbon foot print. Of course, not all products are grown here. Kiwi and orange are from Southern Europe but the focus is on locally grown products. As the organic market is an alternative market, the farmers do get a fair price for their products. You can of course also start growing your own food but that is something i will cover in a next blog.