Last Updated on April 21, 2022
Many people can find it difficult to distinguish between compost and soil. This is because, on a surface level, they will seem quite similar. Adding a layer of topsoil or compost onto any soil medium will only provide it with nutrients and help plants grow accordingly.
This article looks to un-blur the lines between the two a little and makes the differences clearer for everyone. It will discuss what compost and soil are and give their characteristics, pros and cons.
Table of Contents
Defining Compost and Soil
Compost is typically a medium-density soil born of decaying or deteriorating fruit and vegetables, grass, leaves, and twigs. It is made using the bacteria, oxygen, water, and organic materials of these things, and over time, the composting process will turn them into rich, brown soil.
On the other hand, soil is more natural and is defined as being the “top layer of the earth”. While that seems a little vague, it is perfectly natural, and soil is very common. Scientists claim that there are over 65,000 different types of soil in the world and this lends itself to the variety of hot and cold conditions that different soils have had to adapt to over time, changing their characteristics.
It is a brown layer formed by the decay of a range of natural and organic things like air and water build-up, animal life, chemicals, and human life. If using soil for plants, etc, it is important to remember that it is beneficial to use compost after many growing seasons because it is a great source of nutrients.
Compost: The Pros and Cons
Yes, yes, there are many advantages to using compost in your soil mix:
- It contains a range of nutrients
- It helps to keep your soil healthy in a natural way.
- Compost will help your soil retain moisture
- It promotes the proper nutrient-rich growth of plants
- It is cheaper than typical topsoil because you can make it yourself.
- It is more environmentally friendly.
However, there are also drawbacks to utilizing compost:
- It is time-consuming unless you have a composter machine that breaks down the food, grass, leaves. However, this can be quite an expensive tool.
- As compost is made from decaying organic matter, sometimes compost spreads can smell bad.
Soil: The Pros and Cons
Using topsoil in your garden is a great way to keep your regular soil and plants fully healthy. Not only will top-dressing make your grass much healthier, but it will help increase its drought resistance and make your soil-less prone to infestations. Here are a couple of the top pros when it comes to using soil:
- When you use topsoil, by osmosis, it will administer the necessary nutrients into the soil below.
- You won’t need to fertilize your soil if you add a layer of topsoil.
- Topsoil is great for use when you are creating a new flower bed or raised bed. It’s also perfect for top-dressing weak lawn areas. It can be used as a base for improving existing lawns or for creating new lawn areas.
Although there are not many practical cons of using soil, there are a couple of disadvantages:
- For one, it is more expensive than compost (which tends to be free)
- It is not as eco-friendly as compost.
- Unless you combine it with medium potting soil, topsoil is not great for gardening with potted plants or plants in containers.
Using compost on your soil
If you are looking to improve the quality of the soil, compost is your best friend; it is high in nutrients and gives your soil an added boost of nutrients that is effective and will help to facilitate plant growth.
Also incorporating compost into your soil when planting shrubs, adding flower beds, installing sod, or sowing seeds is highly effective. It would be best if you mixed it into your topsoil by raking or tilling it. Similarly, when planting shrubs, flower beds, installing sod, or sowing seeds, you should try to incorporate compost into your soil by raking or tilling it in to apply nutrients.
Most Common Soil and Compost Types
Although there are thousands of soil types and many compost types, there are a few very common ones that I feel should be defined so that you are aware of their existence:
In terms of compost, there is wood waste compost, which is, as you can guess, made up of wood and wood chippings. There is also green waste compost, which is made from garden waste like leaves and grass. There is also manure compost; this is most common on farms and is the combination of various manures. It has a host of minerals that are actually great for plants.
When it comes to soil, the list is endless, but some classics are loam soil, which is comprised of sand, clay, and organic materials. It is high in nutrients, and it is fantastic topsoil. There is also clay soil. Clay soil is composed of tiny particles that hold water well but do not drain sufficiently.
If you have clay-heavy topsoil, you should space out watering as your soil will a little time to drain properly. Finally, there is sandy soil, which works very differently to clay soil in that it should be watered regularly.
Compost is seen as essential when gardening because it is so nutrient-rich. It makes your soil more fertile and provides excellent growing conditions for plants.
Usually, compost will stick better to clay soil. Using Bentonite will help the clay soil merge with the compost, and you may experience better growth.
The best potting soil to buy will tend to depend on what you need it for. Some soils will have a higher or lower pH or will have better drainage capabilities. It will depend on the plant that you are looking to work with.
Good soil has a few main characteristics. For one, it should have good drainage and not get soggy too easily. Secondly, it should have a neutral pH and not be too acidic. It should have a lot of nutrients in it that can keep the plants alive and blooming.
Compost is very eco-friendly and is a great way to use your old vegetable scraps, grass cuttings, leaves, or coffee grind. Compost bins exist to store all of this waste in one place. You can even buy composter machines that will turn all of these scraps into compost far quicker.
Compost does have fertilization values yes, so it can be used as a fertilizer. However, fertilizer itself can not be used as compost.