Compost is to be added to soil, no to replace soil. Plants need soil to form a root system that draws moisture and nutrients from the Earth. Compost is added because it “energizes” processes in the soil that create growth. Plants form cell protoplasm by absorbing nitrogen and use carbon for the energy to grow. When organic matter dies it stores carbon and nitrogen that is slowly released during its decomposition. This is how it “energizes” the soil.
When you add materials to your compost bin, one third to one half the volume will off-gas as carbon dioxide. The nutrients in the resulting compost are conserved and concentrated by this process. Compost is also biologically diverse, so it contributes not just nutrients, but plant allies as well. Many plants form symbiotic associations with bacteria (e.g., rhizobia) and fungi (e.g., mycorrhizae) in the soil that allow them to assimilate more nutrients than their roots would on their own. Some of these bacteria and fungi also attack, or compete with, pathological bacteria and fungi that would otherwise attack your plants.
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