If you’re a beginning gardener, then you might be wondering what’s the big deal with using compost instead of fertilizer and vice versa. They seem to be similar with a few major differences, right? Well, even though they can sometimes be mistaken for each other, there are pros and cons to using each of them. Let’s take a look at the benefits of each and their key differences.
Fertilizer: What Does it Do?
First of all, a fertilizer could be natural or man-made material such as manure or chemical compounds. It is used to support crop and plant growth by spreading nutrients throughout the soil. Moreover, different fertilizers can apply to a range of uses, such as supporting a particular plant or adding crucial nutrients to the land. Many gardeners and farmers rely on fertilizer to speed up the growing process, which can yield more crops and profits for them in the long run.
Just as they use some fertilizers to rev up the growth process, gardeners can also find fertilizers that contain specific nutrients that their plants need. For instance, perhaps their seeds or plants are deficient in magnesium or potassium. They can find a fertilizer with extra magnesium or potassium to help the plant get the minerals it needs to grow healthy and strong.
Finally, some fertilizers can simply be sprinkled onto the soil while others come in the form of small pellets that slowly release nutrients to the plants. This can be useful in ensuring proper nutrition for your plants for the long term.
Compost: How Does it Differ?
On the other side of the compost vs. fertilizer debate, compost is more of a mish-mash and contains organic substances such as dead leaves, manure, and even food scraps. As this organic matter decays, it provides nutrition for the soil. You may have noticed more eco-friendly or low-waste people turning to compost as it uses only natural material and doesn’t add any strange or harsh chemicals to the environment.
Indeed, that is one of the benefits of compost: it can improve the overall health of your soil and thus your crops. Compost often serves as a home to worms and other insects and these creatures supply their own nutrients to the land. Another advantage of compost is that it better aerates the soil, allowing it to hold on to more moisture.
Is One Better Than the Other?
There will always be proponents on both sides of the compost vs. fertilizer debate. Those in favor of compost will say that fertilizer disrupts the natural microbiome of the soil by providing a surplus of nutrients. They’ll also point out that fertilizer often contains chemicals that mess with the symbiotic relationship between different bacteria, resulting in lesser-quality soil. These chemicals may seep into water run-off and pollute sources of drinking water.
That being said, compost comes with its challenges as well. Many people swear by making their own compost and that can take a lot of precious time, not to mention resources. Also, there are a few things to remember when making compost, such as avoiding adding the remains of plants into the mixture as this could spread infectious diseases to the soil. Finally, it takes weeks or even months for the organic matter to break down into usable compost. For those who are inexperienced or can’t afford to spend the time making their own compost, fertilizer is a much more approachable option.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to add nutrients to your soil, fertilizer can help. If you want a more natural and healthy way to nourish your soil, compost is the way to go.