Whenever I hear someone say compost and fertilizer are the same things, I’m tempted to blurt out, “Oh no, they’re not!” But I bite my tongue because I don’t want to be a know-it-all 🙂
Although I stop myself from correcting people’s gardening knowledge during casual conversations, I share what I know when asked.
So if you want the lowdown on whether your garden needs fertilizer if it already gets compost… Sure!
Let’s look at the basics of these garden nourishers so you can decide whether you need them both or just one will do.
Do You Need Fertilizer If You Use Compost
Fertilizer and compost are different things with unique uses. You can’t switch out one for the other and get the same results.
But how do fertilizer and compost differ, and when do you use which?
The answers are coming up!
Does Compost Replace Fertilizer
Compost can’t replace fertilizer.
Fertilizer’s job is to make the soil fertile to grow lush plants. It does this by adding specific quantities of targeted nutrients to the soil to feed plants.
When we eat all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients we need in the right amounts, we have clear eyes, strong nails and hair, and glowing skin! Fertilizer does this for plants. It gives them enough of all the nutrients they need to thrive.
Compost also gives plants nutrients, but there’s a catch: it provides them in small amounts. Plus, because compost’s nutritional value depends on its ingredients and preparation, you can’t know what’s in it.
Compost’s role is to enrich the soil to improve its condition. It adds organic matter and helpful microorganisms and insects to the soil, boosting airflow, water-holding capacity, and drainage.
So, compost is a soil supplement that creates conditions to encourage plant life, and fertilizer is food that gives plants the nutrients they need to flourish.
Discover more similarities and differences between compost and fertilizer in this in-depth article…
Does Compost Work Better Than Fertilizer?
Compost works better than fertilizer as a soil amendment to improve soil condition more and more with every application. Fertilizer doesn’t make soil healthier – it only provides pure nutrients.
On the flip side, fertilizer works better than compost as a plant nutritional supplement. It provides plenty of essential nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, or NPK) for healthy, fast-growing plants.
Can You Use Compost And Fertilizer Together
Compost has amazing long-term benefits for soil health. Fertilizer can be just the pick-me-up plants need to grow to their full potential. Combine the two, and they’ll work together to bring out the best in your garden.
Compost does more than just add a few nutrients. It improves the structure of the soil and adds beneficial microorganisms. This soil life even helps release nutrients over an extended period. As the microbes feed on organic matter, they release nutrients that become available for plant roots to absorb. Fertilizer on the other hand is good for providing specific nutrients in the quantities needed. I advise people to use organic, slow-release fertilizers, since these will provide sustained growth and less leaching of unused minerals into the groundwater.
Using compost and fertilizer gives your garden full benefits. Why choose between enriching your soil or feeding your plants when you can do both?
So Do I Need Compost And Fertilizer?
Every garden has different needs.
Your soil’s current condition and the type of plants you want to grow influence what supplements will work best.
All gardens can benefit from compost – so add that to your garden care program right away!
The best way to know whether your garden needs fertilizer too (and which nutrients need a top-up) is by having a soil test. You can get simple home testing kits like this that make the job easy! (Amazon)
Though, telltale signs your plants are craving fertilizer are slow growth, a lack of flowers, and leaves that are a washed-out shade of green.