The following was originally posted in the May 2013 Nature Notes, Heartland Outdoor School’s newsletter:

Have you ever wondered where all the dead leaves, plants, trees and animals go after they fall to the ground? What do you think happens to them? Think for a second, what it would be like if nothing ever decomposed. If everything that died stuck around forever, there would be a layer of dead stuff on top of the ground so deep that we couldn’t walk anywhere. Decomposition is the process by which organic, or living, matter is broken down into simpler forms. When something dies, other organisms like insects, worms, bacteria and fungi help to break them down into nutrients that become part of the soil. When you have a compost pile at home, you are helping to create fertilizer for your garden, flower beds or lawn. All the stuff that you put in the compost pile is broken down into smaller pieces. When you spread it on your garden, insects and worms come to the surface and eat the organic material. They then travel back underground and poop out nutrients into the soil. So the next time you walk out on your lawn, think about all of the bug poop that you are walking on and how much that helps your plants! Happy composting!