Not All Compost is the Same. Learn the Differences Here!


Compost is very important in gardening but there are a few differences that you will need to keep in mind if you are going to successfully implement this particular growing method.

What are the differences in compost? Compost can be made up of anything rotting, but the items that you choose will have an impact on the results. The nutrients from a compost made of only leaves will be different from those that also have roots, fruits, and barks. As for compost sold in the market, there are those of good quality and those that are not.

Recognizing the distinctions between composts is very important in helping you achieve your gardening goals in a quick and efficient manner, as well as avoiding wasting money.

Is All Compost the Same?

Compost is basically just a combination of different decomposing matter, hence the name. There are a ton of different ways to go about doing so, but you can find some general types that you can base your composting activities on. You will also have a different experience if you are composting in urban areas as compared to when doing so in rural areas.

These difference basically come down to:

·         Availability of materials

·         Diversity of materials

·         Needs and uses

·         Plants and flower species

·         Building or community regulations

You cannot carelessly make compost just because you think that you can. There are simply too many aspects to this particular discussion that escape the notice of those who might view it through such simplistic lenses. Otherwise, you might wind up getting into trouble with your neighbors or the authorities, creating environmental issues, or just straight-up ruining your plants.

With all of that said, let’s take a look at the different types of compost and what they are made of. The table below contains the details that you need.

TypeCompositionUses
CompostContains anything from vegetable scraps to animal wasteGeneral use compost that can be applied to any fruit and vegetables
VermicompostSame as compost but makes use of earthworms to degrade the materials and to encourage decompositionMost versatile compost that can be used for root crops, fruits, flowers, grains, and more
Green ManureUsing green plants for creating compost, mostly made up of things like beans, clover, and other such plantsMostly intended for wheat and grains, adds a short-term boost in nitrogen and nutrients
Farmyard ManureMakes use of animal wastes such as feces and urine, along with the leftover food of these animalsCan be used on most plants and offers long-lasting nutrients that enrich the soil for months or even years

Every single one of these types of compost offers its own particular advantages and disadvantages, which is why you are going to want to be very careful with which one you choose. Otherwise, you could end up using the wrong compost thinking that they are all the same and end up with plants that are unable to take it.

Too much of a good thing can be bad too, after all, just keep that in mind. With that said, let’s take a look at these types a little more closely, shall we?

Compost – As you may have already surmised, compost is the type that you might have immediately imagined if the topic is brought up. This is basically where you dig a hole in the ground and throw in pretty much anything that you can think of. As long as it rots and contains nutrients, it can go into the mix and you just stop thinking about it.

This is pretty much the most convenient type of compost that you can do and is one that any gardener can make themselves. You can even use leftovers from your meals, though, it isn’t advised that you use items that have too many preservatives or seasonings in them. Those will only mess up the composition of the compost and lead to unwanted consequences.

So, just stick with leaves, vegetable scraps, fruit seeds and peelings, and stuff like that if you are going to be making this at home. Just don’t forget that what you are actually aiming for here is to have them all rot by the time you need to use them. Otherwise, you might need to dig through the pile to get to the compost that you need below.

As to what kinds of plants you can use this kind of compost for, it really is best for fruits and vegetables due to the varied, but simplistic nature of the nutrients that it can provide. You have to remember that plants like crops also need such things as nitrogen in order to thrive. Regular composting just doesn’t provide enough of that to make a difference.

Vermicompost – Vermicompost is fairly straightforward, as well, in that it’s basically just the compost but with earthworms added into the mix. Yes, compost itself can have earthworms wriggling about underneath all of that rotting pile, but vermicompost intentionally introduces these little slimy buggers into the batch.

Whereas you just allow time to decompose the waste through conventional composting, vermicompost relies on the earthworms to make this happens. Chemically speaking, the earthworms will degrade the materials so that they break down faster. From a biological standpoint, the worms also encourage decomposition. Taking both of these into account allows for maximum effect on the compost.  

The assistance provided by the earthworms also makes vermicompost quite the versatile type that produces pretty much all of the necessary nutrients needed by any plant. As such, it can be used both for gardening and for farming. As will be discussed below, there are far more effective composts for the latter, but if push comes to shove, this will do.

On that note, there can be some issues with using earthworms for the job of compositing and that is the worms themselves. You don’t really need to do much to keep them alive, but you do have to give them a certain degree of care. Not doing your composting somewhere that can harm them would be a really basic stem, for example.

Green Manure – While the name might suggest otherwise, green manure actually does not contain manure. Well, it normally doesn’t but you can throw in poop or two into the mix if you want. The main star of this particular type of compost is the leguminous and non-leguminous materials that they are using.

These plants are often intentionally grown so that they can then be used as compost. They are best utilized for growing crops and other farms produce like cotton. They add nutrients and nitrogen to the soil, which basically revives the earth. However, this only acts as a stimulant and if the soil is already too tired, it won’t do much.

On that note, if the soil is already healthy and you are still in the cycle for the particular crops you are planting, you should be fine with making use of green manure. Again, what you are aiming for here are the particular nutrients that these green plants can offer. Nitrogen is a particularly huge point of contention for making this kind of compost.

Another great advantage of using this over the compost that will be discussed below is that you don’t have to deal with the stench. Then again, you do have to go through the trouble of actually growing what you will compost, so there’s that too.

Farmyard Manure – Finally, we have farmyard manure, which can be thought of more as fertilizer than compost because that’s exactly what it is. However, the process for creating it still involves decomposition, which is why it is classified as compost. What’s more, it is mostly all about the poop and the pee from all the adorable farm animals you can think of.

Horse, cow, sheep, pigs, you name it, their poops go in it. Roughage and fodder are actually thrown into the mix often, as well, but the main stars are still the little stinkers. Thanks to the various minerals found in such materials and the microorganisms that they host, this is pretty much the most effective kind of compost.

The only drawback is that you do have to have animals on hand if you want to do this yourself and the smell can be quite the issue. If you are already used to it because you are a farmer, grew up on a farm, or grew up around farms, it should not be a big deal. If you are not any of those things, you might not want to even try it.

What’s more, this is the kind of composting that is only really necessary if you are producing in bulk. If you are just a home gardener, all the other types of compost can do the job just as well, and you won’t have to deal with the smell.

Diverging Quality in Store Composts

All right, so now that you know about the different types of compost, you might be wondering if they are the same as the ones you can purchase from stores. The answer is yes and no. It depends on the manufacturer if this is what they are offering or if they have something else, which is produced through their own methods.

With the simple fact that you have this many types of composts alone, you can probably already tell that you are looking at quite a huge variety of composts for sale. This is where you need to be particularly careful, especially with composts that were produced by manufacturers and in places that you don’t even know.

You need to take a closer look at the label to know exactly what kind of compost it is, what was used to make it, and what kinds of nutrients it can offer. These are simply non-negotiable if you are looking for compost from a store.

I would recommend that you shop around for a supplier that you can rely on and if they are local, this would be even better for you. A good local supplier will have no problem with showing you how they are producing their composts, as well. They will also give you all of the details you need on what they are using for their products, which is import for making your judgment.

Once you find the right provider for you, there is just no comparing the feeling of security that you will get. You know that you have found someone that you can trust and you can finally feel comfortable about the compost that you will purchase for growing your plants.

Natural Vs. Store Compost

Speaking of which, if you are trying to decide if it would be better to go with natural compost or ones that are purchased from the store, it’s really just a matter of the conditions. Answering the following questions should give you a pretty good idea of what you should do:

·         Do you have the time?

·         Do you have access to the materials?

·         Which type of compost do you want?

·         Is there already a reliable supplier?

Now, do not make a mistake here by thinking that making your own compost is going to automatically be cheaper than buying. This is not always the case, especially if you are going with the vermicompost route. Violating rules can also be costly for you, though, in a different way than you might be thinking.

If you don’t have the time to do the compost and you do not have easy access to the materials that you want, you might as well buy from the store. It’s not as if compost is even that expensive and if you already have a local supplier that you can trust, then you can just get your compost directly from them. Doing so will make the compost even cheaper than it already is.

Related Questions

Are Compost and Soil the Same?

Although there is the component of soil in making compost, they are not necessarily the same things. Compost is made up of the organic materials that will be decomposing and will thus provide the nutrients to the soil, which the plants will then use to grow healthy and strong.

Is Compost Good for All Plants?

Not all plants need compost simply because not all plants are those that burrow their roots into the ground. There are also plants that grow as vines and wrap themselves around structures and objects like trees. Compost is not necessary for these plants and it would not be much use.

Why Use Compost?

On the matter of why you would use compost when you are gardening, the answer is very simple; it works. As already explained, the main purpose of compost is to provide extra nutrients to plants by essentially fattening up the soil. In turn, the plants will partake of the soil and will grow strong and healthy for whatever purpose they were planted.

Compost has been proven to work through the thousands of years that it was used in cultivating plants and flowers. Study after study has only reinforced this notion and over the years, the methods for composting have evolved and have since become more effective.

The compositing methods of today can basically act as a support to fertilizer or as an alternative to fertilizer if you are not comfortable with the artificial kind. Either way, plants need these to grow up healthy because they basically act like supplements. Only, unlike food supplements, there is scientific proof that composts work with plants.

This is just something that you need to bear in mind when you are making use of any kind of compost you can get your hands on. Just be careful about which one you choose.

Another thing worth noting is how you can actually make some soils way too healthy by containing too much of certain minerals and gases. When mature plants are growing on these types of soils, there should not be that big of a problem. However, if you are trying to plant seedlings, it might become an issue.

This is pretty much the equivalent of giving adult vitamins to infants. It might not be harmful, but it might not be healthy either. The growth of seedlings is a very sensitive project, after all, and anything you do has the potential to have a huge impact. You might think that your soil is perfect for growing stuff in, but this might only apply to stuff that is already grown.

When to Use Compost

If you are going to use compost, you had best know when would be the best time to apply it, especially if you are going to make it yourself. Generally speaking, you should apply the compost to the soil that you will be planting the plants in before you do the actual planting. The soil needs to be as healthy as it can be before you begin the seeding process, after all.

Once that is done, you will then need to schedule regular applications of the compost by just spreading it as necessary. Now, depending on what you are growing, the rate at which you will need to do this will naturally differ. On some occasions, you will need to do it in a few weeks’ time while on others, you will only really need to apply the compost every few months.

Just remember that what you are trying to do here is keeping the soil healthy and if the soil is already healthy, there is no need to add the compost. In the case of flowers, for example, there might be a need to add compost every time the flowers are picked for whatever reason. You will then be going through the whole process one more time.

The whole thing about compost is that it is a balancing act. You are trying to make sure that the soil is refilled with nutrients like you would refill the gas tank of a car. You are maintaining the level of fuel necessary to get the job done, and this is exactly what will be done when you are adding mulch to the soil. 

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