Can You Use Compost Instead Of Potting Soil?


pile of compost with red trowel

Compost is just a mixture of organic materials that you can use in place of soil to grow plants. You can make it by combining organic materials such as leaves with other ingredients like manure, hay, straw, and water. It might sound strange at first, but compost has many benefits over traditional soil.

You can use compost instead of soil to boost your plant’s growth. You can also mix both to reduce waste. It also aids in increasing soil fertility by providing nutrients for plants. Using compost as soil reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which researches prove to cause environmental harm.

More about the comparisons of both and which would be better to use in different situations will be discussed in great detail in the next sections.

Comparing Compost and Soil

Compost and soil are two different things that are often mistaken for one another.

Compost is a mixture of organic substances such as grass clippings, leaves, dead plant material, and manure, while the soil is the ground where vegetation and other organic substances grow.

Below are some of the more stark comparisons between compost and soil:

CompostSoil
Composting is a natural process that can be done at home to make use of organic waste. Home composters come in many shapes and sizes, from the traditional three-bin system to the more modern tumbler or even an indoor worm composter.Soils can come in many different colors, textures, and weights. The quality of soil varies from place to place, but it is a great way to grow plants.
Composting is an environmental process, but it also has many benefits for the gardener who makes use of it. It can improve soil quality and fertility, add nutrients to the soil, and suppress some troublesome weeds.Some soil is better for certain plants than others. For example, sandy soil is usually best suited for cacti and succulents. Clay soil is best for vegetables since it holds more nutrients and moisture than other types of soil.
Composting helps reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and landfill waste because it uses organic material as fertilizer rather than sending it to a landfill for decomposition.Soil preparation can also differ depending on the plant you are planting it in and what season.
Compost has more nutrients in them due to the amount of organic waste in its makeup. It also breaks down faster than the soil, which helps plants take up nutrients more.Soil may only have specific nutrients, especially depending on the area. They also break down slower as compared to compost/

Now, would it be possible to use one or both for gardening purposes? The answer is yes.

Using both compost and soil in the garden

While you can definitely substitute compost for soil, you also opt to add both to each other as done by other gardeners! This can be definitely done as the base usage of compost is, after all, using it as fertilizer to add to the soil.

People often only do complete substitutions of compost rather than soil in situations like container gardening or if you do not have good soil but want to grow something.

However, there may be instances that one places too much compost into the soil. To ensure that this does not happen to you, I have recently created an article on adding compost to the soil and how much it can be too much. It covers details such as types of compost, which would be best to add in soil, and how much compost would be beneficial for your plants, so do check it out if you are interested.

What Are the Benefits of Using Soil Over Compost?

cupped hands holding soil

Soil is an alternative to compost since it is more nutrient-dense and has a diverse blend of microbes. It also promotes healthy disease management and plant growth.

Soil – the lowdown

Soil is the natural, nutrient-rich material that covers the surface of the Earth, which also acts as a supporting medium for plant life.

Out of the long list of nature’s gifts to man, none is perhaps so utterly essential to human life as soil.

Hugh Hammond Bennett

Soil holds water and nutrients for plants to take up, and it helps them upright. It is also for aerating the plant roots to provide oxygen throughout the root zone while protecting them from external factors such as excessive sunlight, drought, and frost.

A 2014 study by the University of Minnesota found that planting in soil instead of compost increased the yield of tomato plants by 25% and increased growth rates by 10%.

While compost can be beneficial for growing vegetables, soil still has many advantages. Compost is generally made up of decomposing organic matter, whereas soil consists of most mineral content with a few microorganisms. Compost also lacks necessary nutrients such as calcium and potassium found in soil.

What Benefits Does Compost offer Over soil?

Though soil has the added benefit of being all around us, there are also benefits to actually making a process and effort while creating compost, which is listed below:

Compost prevents Global Warming

When you compost organic wastes, they break down and release carbon dioxide into the air, just like any other material that bacteria breaks down.

However, because decomposition takes time, composting releases fewer greenhouse gases than would be released if the waste was placed in a landfill or treatment plant and allowed to rot without oxygen.

Compost Builds Soil and Strengthens the Roots of Plants

Making plants, vegetation, and food scraps into compost is beneficial for our environment because it reduces the amount of garbage we produce and helps our plants grow better.

It helps other plants by providing them with nutrients and reducing the need for soil amendments such as fertilizer.

Compost Addresses Nitrogen Deficiency

The composting process releases nitrogen into the soil, which can help with certain deficiencies.

When organic matter breaks down, it releases nitrogen that helps to fertilize crops.

Nitrogen is an essential element for plant growth and is necessary to make chlorophyll.

Compost can be used for Mulching and Weed Prevention

Composting can be a practical and cheaper solution to mulch. It is because it eliminates the need for mulching materials such as wood chips or leaves.

Composting also helps with weed prevention by reducing the amount of water that the soil needs and limiting the amount of light that reaches weeds.

Compost Is Not Just for Organic Gardeners

trowel of compost

Composting provides many benefits for both the environment and gardeners.

Compost improves the quality of soil, reduces landfill waste, and increases biodiversity. It also sequesters carbon and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Composting is a perfect solution for those who do not have enough space to grow their plants. Most people are surprised to learn that you can compost indoors as well as outdoors.

Is Compost Worth the Investment?

Composting is another great way to dispose of organic matter that would otherwise have to go into landfills. To aid you in your making process, You can check this recent article on composting for beginners. It covers tutorials and even videos on how to do the composting process, the considerations for making it, and the different ratios of material you can add to create the best compost.

Composting may require some work up front, including making sure there are enough materials for the worms and bacteria to break down your food waste-but does provide many benefits in return.

All in all, it really just depends on your goals! If you need sustainability or economic savings, then yes, investing in compost is a good idea.

How to Build Your Composter

Here are the things you need to build your own:

What Materials and composting containers Do You Need?

The materials you need for composting vary based on the type of composting method.

Pile or bin composterTumbler-style compost
With a pile or bin composter, all you need is a container and some organic matter to add to it. You can also add shredded paper, grass clippings, leaves, fruit peels, and eggshells to provide an even greater variety of nutrients for your compost.With a tumbler-style composter, all you need is the machine itself plus some organic matter to get started and then additional materials over time as the material reduces in size. Features include an easily accessible crank handle, which facilitates faster, easier composting.

While you can definitely choose the pile composting process so that there won’t be a need to buy compost bins and all that, it will still need space, and the next section will cover that.

How Much Space Do You Have for your compost?

Space is a crucial factor in deciding how much composting you can do. If you have lots of space, then it is possible to start composting on a grand scale.

In general, the more space you have for composting, the more waste you can process. However, it might not be practical to grow your food if you do not have much space or any access to land.

What Size Should your compost Be?

You can determine the compost size by the type of material and the amount of moisture.

The optimal compost pile is about 3 to 4 feet high, but this varies depending on what compost type and how you built it.

Calculate your pile size based on a volume of about one cubic yard, which means you need a pile that is 3-4 feet high, 4-5 feet wide, and 8-10 feet long. To aid you in this process, I have written an article regarding compost bin sizes. It contains information about considerations and even computations on how you can create the perfect compost bin for your needs.

Where Should your compost Sit?

Some people might like to compost in their backyard. If you have enough space, it can work. If there are no trees or shrubs nearby, the compost natural heat can damage as it decomposes.

I am sure you have a ton of questions about composting and that is why I filmed the video below which will walk you through the entire process of composting so that you get perfect results every time.

How To Protect Your Compost From Pests

There are a few easy ways to prevent pests from ruining your compost.

You can stop pests and animals from smelling or tasting your compost by using a heavy lid.

You can also disguise the smell by adding mint or citrus fruit peels. The best way is to build a wooden frame around your compost bin for protection against animals and insects.

How To Grow Your Garden With the Help of Compost

Now knowing the benefits of compost usage, let us now move on to the actual application within the garden.

Sow Seeds or Plants Directly when using compost

broad beans or fava beans in compost

Compost is a medium for growing plants, whether you want to grow them indoors or outdoors.

It is rich in nutrients, so if you need to make your compost at home, start by gathering materials. If you are ready to jump into composting right away, then sow the seeds directly into the finished compost.

Plant Close – 1-2 Inches Apart when utilizing compost

Plants need to be close, but not too much. The optimal distance is 1-2 inches apart. It prevents crowding and helps plants grow to their full potential.

Add Mulch Around Plants with compost

Adding mulch around plants in composting is an effective way to keep the environment cool.

You can do mulching with sawdust or straw, but it needs keeping away from the stems of plants.

It also prevents weed growth because it blocks light and air.

Use Compost to Retain Moisture and Keep Weeds at Bay

Covering compost piles with a tarp will help retain moisture and keep weeds at bay but also helps to ensure that no animal or insect has access to the pile.

Compost Should Be Moist, Not Dry

watering compost piles

It is necessary to make sure the compost pile doesn’t get too dry because this can result in a fire hazard. As well as making sure that it stays moist, it’s also necessary to keep the pile aerated so that it can decompose well.

Add a New Layer of Compost Every Few Weeks

It helps to improve soil fertility, structure, drainage, aeration, and water holding capacity. To maximize these benefits, you should monitor and manage carefully to maintain the right balance of nitrogen and carbon.

Conclusion on why you can’t use compost as soil

The idea behind composting is to decompose organic materials into a soil amendment. If you don’t really have enough mature compost at hand to use as a medium all on its own, you can always mix it with the soil from your garden to further boost your plant’s growth.

With the world thankfully focusing now on reducing, reusing, and recycling agendas, composting is becoming a more popular way to get rid of organic matter without throwing it in the trash, resulting in pollution. Hopefully, the information above will help you decide if you are up to making your compost to boost soil capabilities and doing your part in saving the planet, bit by bit.

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter, and professional gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

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