VG01049 Compost – Introduction

This is the first in a series of five fact sheet developed for vegetable growers in 2003.

These sheets will provide you with information about composting, compost products and how to best use them to suit your needs.

What is Compost ?

Compost is partially decomposed organic matter produced by naturally occurring microorganisms.

Compost is a dark, crumbly mixture that can help improve the chemical, physical and biological aspects of soil.

Compost will often have an earthy smell and its odour should not be unpleasant.


Kevin Wilkinson

Dean Harapas

Emily Tee

Bruce Tomkins

Robert Premier

VG01049 Compost Factsheet #1
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Compost products can be used to :

  • improve and maintain soil quality
  • reduce use of water, fertiliser and pesticides
  • increase productivity
  • reduce nutrient run-off and soil erosion.

Making Compost :

Typically organic materials must be shredded or pre-processed and mixed in a balanced and consistent ‘recipe’ to ensure optimal conditions for biodegradation to produce high quality and uniform compost.

Naturally occurring microorganisms then begin the process of rapid break-down of the organic materials by using the available food (principally carbon and nitrogen), water and oxygen to grow and multiply.

The microorganisms generate heat as they break-down the organic matter.

This heat (usually in excess of 55 °C) is very important in ensuring that weed seeds and pathogens are eliminated.

Quality Control :

Quality composts are safe to use, meeting both industry and government standards and are also ‘fit for purpose’.

It is important to first identify why you want to use compost and what you want to achieve.

Talk to a supplier of quality compost that can help you select the right product for your requirements.

Acknowlegements :

Peter Franz, Department of Primary Industries (Victoria), Knoxfield, for providing statistical advice for the persistence of enteric bacteria on leafy vegetable trials.

Dr Graham Hepworth, from the Statistical Consulting Centre at The University of Melbourne, for experimental design assistance, analysing data and providing statistical advice with regards to the persistence of enteric bacteria in poultry litter trials.

Francha Horlock, Janet Tragenza (Department of Primary Industries (Victoria), Knoxfield) and Iphie Papapetrou (Box Hill Institute, Victoria) for providing technical advice and assistance.

Agnes Tan and Nela Subasinghe from The Microbiological Diagnostic Unit, Department of Microbiology and Immunology at The University of Melbourne for microbial diagnostic advice and services.

Dr Barry Macauley from the Department of Microbiology at Latrobe University provided valuable assistance in the interpretation of the experiments examining the reduction and persistence of enteric bacteria during aging of poultry litter.

This work was funded by: Horticulture Australia Pty Ltd, Department of Primary Industries (Victoria) and the Australian Vegetable Growers through the AUSVEG levy with voluntary contributions from: VegFed (NZ), CL & AK Warlan, Lightowler Fowl Manure Pty Ltd, TD & EC Ould Pty Ltd

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