If you have read all of the previous posts on composting (why, what' happening, what goes in, and where to put it), you may be wondering why you should compost and not just use fertilizer. Have you ever tasted the difference between a tomato you picked off the vine and ate right away verses a tomato you bought at your local supermart? That is probably the difference the plants "taste" between compost and chemical fertilizer. Compost is fresh and alive, teeming with life. It smells good and feels light and fluffy. It holds on to water and feeds it back to plants that are so happily living in it. It becomes part of the soil and bring nutrients and life to anything that grows in it. Chemical fertilizer is stale and dead, having nothing alive about it. You can't smell it or touch it with bare hands because it is poisonous to people. It washes away when it rains and flows down to local lakes and streams and poisons them. You don't notice it's poison because you think it's helping your plants grow big and healthy. But what is really doing is stripping the soil of all its nutrients so that you have to buy and apply more and more every year. When you apply compost, it works in to the soil and just gets better and better. You should still add more every year, but if you don't, there is still good stuff left over from before. If you use chemical fertilizers, there is actually less than what your soil started with. Nothing left from the year before, it all washed away rather than incorporating into the soil. In addition, if you throw mulch, like fall leaves, on top of your compost, that will also turn to compost giving you the benefit of both the mulch and later the compost. Happy plants and happy gardeners!