Different Types of Compost and How You Should Use Them
Making your own compost is not only a great way to promote sustainable and eco-friendly gardening but is also a great way to look after your plants and vegetables. If you don’t have the time or don’t want to put the effort into making your own, then buying compost can be just as beneficial.
What exactly is compost?
In simple terms, compost is a way to take dead organic material and turn it into something that can help feed living things. It can be composed of simple things like grass cuttings, hedge trimmings, or plants that have served their purpose. You can also use things like manure, kitchen waste, or even coffee grindings if you have them. Compost is created as these organic compounds break down over time and create a soil like substance that is fertile for plants and vegetables in the garden.
Isn’t compost just fertilizer?
No. The difference comes from what the two compounds do. Compost feeds the soil allowing everything planted to benefit from the nutrients it provides. Fertilizer feeds the plant directly. Because of this, fertilizers can be seen as a short-term fix for individual plants, while compost is a long-term solution to keep the soil healthy.
Is compost really necessary?
The short answer is yes. By regularly adding compost to your garden you are investing in its long-term health and providing nutrients that will allow your garden to grow and thrive. If you want to experiment, try growing a part of your garden with compost and one without and see the results. Grass will be greener, plants will be larger and more fully flowered, and vegetables will be larger. Of course, adding compost to your garden is a long-term solution and will require persistence before any results are seen. It will be worth it in the end though.
How does compost work?
Compost improves soil in many beneficial ways. Firstly, it improves the water and oxygen-holding capacities of soil, both of which are essential for plant growth. Compost contains many beneficial bacteria and fungi that make plants healthier and more hardy. On top of this, compost helps bring in earthworms and other beneficial creatures into the garden that can help keep it in tip top shape.
What compost types are there?
There are many types of compost, but they generally fall into five categories:
1. Peat compost
This type of compost is made from peat blended with a variety of different ingredients like fertiliser, perlite, sand, perlite, vermiculite, some form of wetting agent and grit. Because of the many different additives, it can come in a variety of formulations.
Peat is commonly known as potting compost and is sold in smaller bags for use when planting into containers or planters. Due to its low cost and availability it is the most widely used compost.
The main drawback of using peat-based compost is the dubious effect it has on the environment. Peat used in garden compost is normally sourced from peat bogs, which can be some of the most endangered environments. To create peat compost, natural peat bogs are being destroyed leading to many councils declaring the areas as endangered.
2. Loam compost
Loam compost is a combination of different soils that make it ideal for growing plants. It is composed of clay, sand, and silt, allowing the soil to have the benefits of each without any of their negative properties.
Clay gives the compost good nutrient and water retention, making it ideal for plants which flower as they usually require a lot of watering. Silt is fine in texture and can also help soil retain moisture. Like clay, silt can become dense in structure, causing drainage problems. This is where sand comes in. Lawn sand loosens the soil, helping with water drainage and allowing air into the soil. By combining the trio, loam allows you to harness the beneficial characteristics of each.
Loam compost comes in different types that each have a different purpose, so it is important to know exactly what you need it for before buying.
3. Peat-free compost
This type of compost forgoes the environmentally controversial peat in favour of a number of different base ingredients, such as composted bark coir, wood fibre, or green compost.
It is made primarily with a base ingredient above to which other compounds are introduced depending on the type of soil the compost is going to be used with.
As with peat compost, peat free compost is used mainly as a potting compost due to its ability to hold moisture and release nutrients slowly over time. An ideal compost for planters and containers.
4. Organic compost
This type of compost can contain a variety of different materials, including composted bark, peat, and wood fibres, depending on the compost’s intended usage. This is then supplemented with organic nutrients from animals and plants that promote soil water retention and plant growth.
Organic compost is very similar to other composts but comes with the added reassurance that all ingredients are organic in nature and have no chemicals. It can be a little more expensive than other composts but the peace of mind for many is worth it.
5. Multi-purpose compost
This type of compost is suitable for all garden tasks, from sowing grass seeds, to planters, borders or even taking cuttings. It can come with different ingredients based on the brand and purpose but will usually come with things like plant food built in so you know your plants will be fed for many months to come.
Multi-purpose compost is good for general use but check before buying to see if your plants would be benefitted by a more targeted compost.
Related: High industrial strength weedkiller
Last update on 2019-10-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API