Another reason to use compost


Those of you who regularly read Waste Management and Research already know this, but it was news to me that compost can reduce greenhouse gas emissions if applied to agricultural soil. The compost would increase the carbon in the soil, and, as the article, which I found via Science Daily, says

Carbon sequestration in soil has been recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the European Commission as one of the possible measures through which greenhouse gas emissions can be mitigated.

Although I don’t have enough arable land for my gardening to be considered agricultural use, some of us are growing a lot of vegetables, and just as creating mini-native-habitats can help with biodiversity, perhaps capturing these small plots of carbon may help mitigate emissions.

Not that I need to be convinced about compost, but it’s interesting.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. that post seems slightly misleading to me – isn’t it surely the compost that stores the carbon (presumably as opposed to another alternative like burning it?) and the placing of it on the soil is relevant only in that it gives us a sensible place to store the compost.

    am I missing something?

  2. What I got from the article is that the compost helps sequester the carbon in the soil, turning these agricultural areas into a carbon sink. This is recognized as a way of reducing emissions. But I provide the link so that people can read the whole story–and I am sure others are better at fully interpreting the science than I am.

  3. That’s OK, Tai. I like to report stuff like this, even if it might be controversial or even total BS. It’s just my fun.

    I hope it’s right though.

  4. So how many feet of compost do I need to add to my garden to offset the emissions from my car?

    Okay, that was a silly question and I know it.

    But seriously, this is very interesting and I hope it leads to a more organically inclined Ag industry. That would have many more benefits than just carbon sequestration.

  5. Compost in my favorite thing about gardening. I tend to snicker about those compost bins and articles that show city folks how to compost in an old garbage can. What good is half a bushel of compost? My compost pile is 30 X 40 feet and several feet deep around the edges. I pile up leaves from my yard, which has so many mature hardwoods I was forced to buy a vacant lot next door so I could have a sunny garden.

    I leave the pile alone until late winter, then I fire up the rototiller and stir it up. I repeat this about every two weeks as long as there is anything there that looks like leaves. It all goes into my garden which is about 50 X 150 feet. I’ve been doing this for 30 years, so I guess I have kept a lot of carbon compounds out of the atmosphere.

    Last summer we had record dry weather, but our garden produced more than any of the neighbors. It had to be the mulch. The first year that I gardened that plot, dry weather killed the tomatoes. Last summer, the tomatoes thrived.
    Howard (in Tennessee)

  6. My husband seems to think that a buried squirrel is good compost for our garden.I think its disgusting..Pleas help??

  7. Sandra, Tell hubby no that is NOT good compost. Compost should be all vegetable matter. You never put animal flesh into a compost pile, ever. Leaves, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, shredded paper, etc. No squirrels.

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