The word compost derives etymologically from the Latin word composita, meaning something put together or mixed, and appears in the 13th century in Old French as composte. At this point, it referred to a mixed dish of cooked vegetables or fruit meant to be eaten, which survives in the word compote. In English, the meaning referring to fertilizer dates from the 1580s in William Harrison’s Description of England, wherein he describes soil suitable for growing barley without compest. Shakespeare uses the word in the same sense in Hamlet (III, iv, 153): “Do not spread the compost on the weeds To make them ranker,” meaning that using fertilizer to facilitate the growth of useful plants was already a common practice. At this point, soil amendment was ...

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