Fertiliser vs compost: what’s the difference?

As gardeners, we all want to provide the optimum environment for our plants to grow. However, with so many tips and tricks out there, it’s difficult to know what advice we should follow.

If you’re just starting out in your garden, you may be wondering what the difference between compost and fertilizer is — what are the benefits of each? Should you use them both? In this article, compost and topsoil specialist, Compost Direct, explains more about the two essential items.


What is the difference between fertiliser and compost?

On the most basic level, fertilisers feed plants; compost feeds the soil. Of course, in reality, it’s a little more complex but this is a good general rule to follow, especially when working out what your garden requires.

Fertilisers are used to provide plants with the nutrients they need to grow. They are used especially with fast-growing plants that require high levels of nutrients to grow — essentially, they top-up the levels to ensure the plant can successfully develop.

It’s important that you choose the right fertiliser for your plant. Using the wrong fertiliser can disrupt the soil’s natural chemistry, which can disturb or even prevent the growth of microbes. Over time, this can result in substantial damage to the soil, especially if you choose a chemical fertiliser.

Where fertilisers work with plants, compost, on the other hand, works with the soil. Because of the high levels of organic matter within it, compost feeds the soil and promotes healthy microbe growth. Over time, this builds up nutrient levels in the soil and provides the optimum condition for plants to grow.

Through adding compost to your soil, you will also improve your soil’s ability to retain moisture. As water plays an intrinsic part in growth, this will also boost the vitality of your plants.


Can I use fertiliser and compost together?

Despite their differences, fertiliser and compost can be used together. The organic matter in compost stores the nutrients from the fertiliser until the plant needs them.

Over time, persistent use of fertiliser can imbalance your soil and make it difficult to grow plants in the future. Choose organic fertilisers over chemical ones, and try to use them on a short-term basis. Generally, you’ll see notable differences to your plants through using a fertiliser/compost mix over a few months, so you may be able to stop using fertiliser sooner than you may think.

27th September 2016

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