Special to the Republic-Monitor/WELDON UNTERREINER

Outside of gardening circles, the expression, “I’m using black gold today,” often elicits looks of astonishment or confusion.

For those of us who love to dig in the dirt we totally understand the phrase “black gold. Most of us never have enough of the stuff.

So what exactly is “black gold” and how does one come about getting it?

Black gold is a moniker for compost, what is left over when the bacteria in dirt breaks down a meal of leaves and grass clippings and table scraps and turns it into an end product that contains plant sustaining nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium and iron.

It becomes more than mere fertilizer — compost also regulates the pH of the soil, improves soil texture and helps retain its moisture as well as its microbes, all of the things that are essential for healthy plants.

Garden insurance

Consider using compost as your garden insurance.

Adding compost moderates pH and fertility problems. It can be added to your garden at any time in any amount because plants use exactly what they need and when they need it.

Composting is nature’s way of recycling waste organically and returning it to nature as rich soil.

Any plant matter that was once living is a viable candidate for decomposition.

Backyard or open field composting is an acceleration of the same process that nature uses.

So what makes good compost? Here’s a rule of thumb: Use a mixture of 80 percent brown material and 20 percent green material.

The majority of compost should be dried grass clippings, fallen leaves, and other dead or dried debris from your yard….