Boost Your Home Garden: Fertilizers and Compost

Like us, people, plants also need their vitamins to grow stronger. There are a couple of methods you can use to ensure a healthy environment for your crops or flowers. Let’s look at composting and fertilizers – their pros and cons, and decide which one suits you best.

What is compost?

Compost is made by disintegrated organic matter and bacteria/fungi/earthworms in animal and other types of waste.

You can create compost by mixing plant remnants with manure. By plant remnants we mean: everything organic you ate or used in your garden and don’t need anymore – vegetable residue, organic kitchen leftovers, grass, leaves, and disease-free plants. Animal manure, on the other hand, is a natural element, which supplies nutrients (when using it, avoid animals that have recently taken antibiotics).

Pros of compost for your plants

One of the essential features of having your own compost is that you eliminate food waste and the amount of trash you produce. Composting is a great way to re-enter the circle of nature and help everyone.

What are the benefits for the plant if you use compost:

  • Feeds the organisms
  • Aerates the soil
  • Keeps the soil moist and increases the ability of the soil to absorb water
  • Helps crops fight diseases
  • Aids in preventing erosion
  • Controls weeds
  • It’s rich in healthy nutrients which won’t burn the plant as chemical ‘salts’ would do
  • Can easily be mixed with the soil you buy from the store.

Compost enriches the soil structure. It keeps the soil damp and preserves all the good bacteria to stay inside so that plants could feed on the good nutrients from it. Without good soil structure, crops frequently suffocate or drown, because the soil is not healthy enough for plants to develop good roots.

An important tip – you can compost anything organic, but be careful. Initially, you can compost anything organic. Some foods are slightly tricky to compost. Throwing more citrus fruits at once may raise the ph level which will slow down the composting process. Some cooked foods and animal feces may contain pathogens and won’t be easy to compost as well. Same for oil.

Cons of using compost for your plants

We naturally have a busy lifestyle and always aim for fast results. The disadvantage of having a compost is patience. Yes, you have to wait for the good stuff. Compost takes time and a lot of management – you have to prepare the right amount of greens and browns, then wait, then go and turn it over, mix it, and wait again.

Compost is cheaper than other nutrients and fertilizers, but when results are time sensitive, people usually choose the faster option.

Also, you may need a lot of material to make a small amount of good compost – that may be a problem as well.

Compost may be more suitable for in-house use than for big plantations. It’s convenient to have it in your backyard, but it might be difficult to sustain good compost for your farm.

What is fertilizer?

A fertilizer is a plant nutrient made of either natural or synthetic material which you apply to your soil to help your plants grow faster and stronger.

There are two types of fertilizer: manure, leaves, and compost as the organic one, and synthetic fertilizer – manufactured artificially and containing minerals or synthetic chemicals. Both provide essential nutrients for the plant and using one or the other depends on what you need: a healthy growing environment or rapid growth.

When buying your bag of fertilizer, consider the ratio between nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, forming the NPK written on the bag.

Manure contains the most critical nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and some more. It improves soil structure, aeration, soil moisture-holding capacity, and water infiltration by adding the needed organic matter.

Synthetic fertilizers consist of different nutrients and salts. Salts easily dissolve in water and can be absorbed by the plant roots quickly giving it a lot of energy to grow. That’s why here you should be careful with the amount we put in the soil because high concentrations of salt can “burn” the plants.

Pros for the plans

  • Fertilizers help plants grow faster.
  • Synthetic fertilizers provide nutrients that can be released quickly and consumed as soon as possible
  • Help revive the plant in an emergency
  • Some fertilizers provide nutrition over an extended period releasing nutrients slowly

Cons or using fertilizers

  • Synthetic fertilizer kills essential microbes.
  • May overload the soil with nutrients thus destroy the symbiotic web of microbes in the soil.
  • May also harm the environment if overused and released into underground water that eventually goes in our homes.

Poor plant health is often due to poor soil conditions. Improving the soil with compost instead of using fertilizer is a more environmentally friendly and sustainable way of maintaining healthy plants.

Synthetic fertilizer is cheaper in the short term, but it impacts the soil negatively in the long run. Usually, poor plant health is often a result of poor soil health. To remedy this problem, add organic materials such as manure or compost to the soil frequently.

Which one is better?

It’s important to understand that fertilizer feeds the plant and compost feeds the soil.

Organic fertilizers play an important role and continue to improve the soil even after the plants take the nutrients they need thus having a positive impact on the soil. The longer you give it organic fertilizer or compost, the healthier and stronger it will become.

Of course, there are times when you will need to go for synthetic fertilizers, just like when you are sick and go for antibiotics. Keep in mind that your soil is important as well and requires care in the longer term.

And if you opt for compost – be patient, and know that it will give you better results in return.

Check out our article on ecological agriculture as a follow up on the thoughts shared here.

Download PDF